Elsa has regained hurricane strength as it travels along the southern coast of Florida near Tampa, according to forecasts.
Elsa was 65 miles south-west of Tampa and 125 miles south of Cedar Key, Fla., according to the National Hurricane Center’s 11 p.m. EDT Tuesday report. It had sustained winds of 75 mph, reclassifying it as a Category 1 hurricane, and was heading north at 14 mph.
As it neared the Caribbean late last week, it was a hurricane before weakening to a tropical storm.
A hurricane warning has been issued for Florida’s west coast from Egmont Key to the Steinhatchee River, and a storm surge warning has been issued for the western Florida coast from Bonita Beach to the Aucilla River, including Tampa Bay.
“On the forecast track, Elsa will continue to pass near the Florida Keys this morning, and move near or over portions of the west coast of Florida later today through tonight,” the NHC said in its update. “On Wednesday morning, Elsa is forecast to make landfall along the north Florida Gulf coast and then move across the southeastern United States through Thursday.”
“Slow strengthening is forecast through tonight, and Elsa could be near hurricane strength before it makes landfall in Florida,” it said.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported tropical storm-force winds and heavy rainfall in the Florida Keys in its most recent advisory.
Elsa was predicted to dump 3-5 inches of rain throughout the Florida Keys and into the south-west and western sections of the peninsula through Wednesday, with the rest of the state receiving 2-4 inches.
The NHC also warned of a tornado threat along Elsa’s path, which will last through Wednesday across north Florida, south-east Georgia, and parts of South Carolina.
Elsa is the fifth named storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, and is the earliest to arrive. Last year, Tropical Storm Eduardo didn’t form until July 5.
The other storms that preceded Elsa were Ana, Bill, Claudette and Danny. All were tropical storms.