Hurricane Elsa intensified significantly Friday afternoon, only hours after becoming the Atlantic season’s first hurricane, and was on course to hit sections of the Caribbean and the U.S. mainland.
In an 8 p.m. EDT update Friday, the NHC said Elsa was located about 475 miles east-southeast of Isla Beata, Dominican Republic, and 810 miles east-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica. It had maximum sustained winds of 85 mph and was moving west-northwest at 30 mph.
A tropical storm becomes a hurricane with sustained winds of 74 mph. Elsa would graduate to a Category 2 storm if it reaches winds of 96 mph.
“On the forecast track, Elsa will move across the eastern Caribbean Sea tonight, across the central Caribbean Sea on Saturday, and move near the southern coast of Hispaniola late Saturday or Saturday night. By Sunday, Elsa is forecast to move near Jamaica and portions of eastern Cuba, and move near portions of central and western Cuba Sunday night and Monday,” the NHC said.
The National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane warning for Jamaica, the southern section of Haiti from Port Au Prince to the Dominican Republic’s southern border, and the Dominican Republic’s Punta Palenque to the Haitian border.
Tropical storm warnings were issued for many places, including St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the coast of Haiti north of Port Au Prince, and the Dominican coast from Punta Palenque to Cabo Engano.
The Cuban government has issued a hurricane warning for Camaguey, Granma, Guantanamo, Holguin, Las Tunas, and Santiago de Cuba. Tropical storm watches were in place for Saba and Sint Eustatius, the Dominican Republic from Cabo Engano to Bahia de Manzanillo, and Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.
In the NHC’s warning cone, the storm is forecast to make landfall Tuesday afternoon on Florida’s Gulf Coast and move northward over the state — but as a tropical storm, not a hurricane.
Elsa is the fifth named storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, and is the earliest to arrive. Last year, Tropical Storm Eduardo formed on July 5.
The other storms that preceded Elsa were Ana, Bill, Claudette and Danny. All were tropical storms.