Home News Elsa Approaching Cuba Before Impacting Florida Keys Starting Monday – NBC Los Angeles
News - July 5, 2021

Elsa Approaching Cuba Before Impacting Florida Keys Starting Monday – NBC Los Angeles

Tropical Storm Elsa continued its approach toward Cuba early Monday morning before it begins to make an impact on the Florida Keys and part of the central section of the state.

The 5 a.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center has the system with winds of 65 miles per hour while sitting 220 miles southeast of Havana. Elsa is moving to the northwest with winds of 14 miles per hour.

Miami-Dade and Broward counties are out of the cone of concern for major impacts from Elsa, while a tropical storm warning remains issued for the Florida Keys from Craig Key west to the Dry Tortugas along with part of the west coast from Flamingo to Englewood.

A tropical storm watch was issued Sunday for part of the west coast, from Englewood north to the Aucilla River in Florida’s panhandle. A storm surge watch is also in effect from Bonita Beach northward to the Suwannee River, including Tampa Bay.

Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke with the media from Miami ahead of the storm expected to impact the Florida Keys on Monday.

“These tracks can change, but this is what we’re looking at now – something riding up the west coast of the state,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a news conference Sunday in Miami.

Elsa prompted Gov. Ron DeSantis to declare a state of emergency in 15 Florida counties: Miami-Dade, Monroe, Charlotte, Citrus, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Hernando, Hillsborough, Lee, Levy, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas and Sarasota.

“The threat posed by Elsa requires that timely precautions are taken to protect the communities, critical infrastructure, and general welfare of Florida,” DeSantis’ executive order read.

Both Monroe and Miami-Dade counties declared their own state of local emergencies due to the potential effects from Tropical Storm Elsa on Saturday.

“There still is a lot of uncertainty about the path, but we are continuing to monitor closely and if there are any potential impacts to Miami-Dade we are ready,” Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said during a weekend news conference.

The county was one of 15 in the state of Florida to be placed under a state of emergency ahead of the tropical storm.

Mandatory evacuations in Monroe County are not expected for this storm.

“The last thing we want is a lot of people leaving the Florida Keys on Monday at 11 a.m.,” Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi said. “We hope visitors will consider extending their stay through Wednesday, when we are expecting normal summertime conditions to resume, or to leave earlier on Monday to avoid traffic issues in the Upper Keys we normally see after busy holiday weekends.”

County officials say they are aware that while Miami-Dade and Broward counties may not be affected directly by Elsa, potential flooding could still be a concern.

“For many years, we’ve had a great relationship with them (South Florida Water Management) in making sure we don’t have an abundance of water in these canal systems,” Miami-Dade Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz said Sunday. “We are able to make sure water is expedited in the fastest process when a storm is approaching.”

A hurricane warning is in effect for the Cuban provinces of Cienfuegos and Matanzas as the country evacuated 180,000 people amid fears Elsa could cause heavy flooding after battering several Caribbean islands, killing at least three people.

A hurricane watch is also in effect for the province of Camaguey.

The Cuban government opened shelters and moved to protect sugarcane and cocoa crops ahead of the storm, which was offshore moving along Cuba’s southern coast late Sunday and expected to make landfall farther west by Monday afternoon.

Most of those evacuated went to relatives’ homes, while some people sheltered at government facilities. Hundreds living in mountainous areas took refuge in natural caves prepared for emergencies.

The center said the storm was expected to gradually weaken while passing over central Cuba on Monday.

“After Elsa emerges over the Florida Straits and the southeastern Gulf of Mexico, some slight re-strengthening is possible,” the NHC said.

Rain fell intermittently in Cuba’s eastern provinces throughout Sunday as the storm passed by to the south.

“So far, it’s a soft, serene rain. There are no downpours. The streets are not overflowing,” Yolanda Tabío, a 73-year-old retiree living in Santiago, told The Associated Press. “I thought it could be worse.”

Rafael Carmenate, a volunteer for the local Red Cross who lives facing the beach in Santa Cruz del Sur, told the AP by telephone: “We have a little water — showers. The sea has not intruded. It’s cloudy and gusty.”

The storm killed one person on St. Lucia, according to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency. A 15-year-old boy and a 75-year-old woman died Saturday in separate events in the Dominican Republic after walls collapsed on them, according to a statement from the Emergency Operations Center.

Elsa was a Category 1 hurricane until Saturday morning, causing widespread damage on several eastern Caribbean islands Friday as the first hurricane of the Atlantic season. Among the hardest hit was Barbados, where more than 1,100 people reported damaged houses, including 62 homes that collapsed. The government promised to find and fund temporary housing to avoid clustering people in shelters amid the pandemic.

Downed trees also were reported in Haiti, which is especially vulnerable to floods and landslides because of widespread erosion and deforestation. Haiti’s Civil Protection Agency said Sunday that three people had been injured by downed trees.

Elsa is the earliest fifth-named storm on record and also broke the record as the tropic’s fastest-moving hurricane, clocking in at 31 mph Saturday morning, said Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami.

Portions of Cuba were forecast to get rainfall of 5 to 10 inches (13 to 25 centimeters) through Monday, with isolated maximum amounts of 15 inches (20 centimeters). Jamaica was expected to get 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters), with maximum totals of 15 inches (38 centimeters).

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