TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Tropical Storm Elsa is forecast to strengthen slightly as it moves past Key West toward Florida’s Gulf Coast Tuesday morning, the National Hurricane Center said in its latest advisory.
A hurricane watch was issued Tuesday morning for portions of West Florida, including Pinellas, coastal Pasco, Hernando, and Citrus counties.
“A hurricane force gust is not out of the question right along the coast but most of the wind should stay below hurricane force,” said Storm Team 8 Meteorologist Amanda Holly.
At 8 a.m. ET, Elsa had maximum sustained winds of 60 mph and was centered about 55 miles west of Key West and 240 miles south of Tampa. The system was moving north-northwest at 12 mph with tropical-storm-force winds extending outward up to 70 miles from the storm’s center.
Elsa is expected to pass near the Florida Keys Tuesday morning, then turn north Tuesday night and move near or over the Gulf Coast. It is forecast to make landfall along the north Florida Gulf Coast Wednesday morning before it moves northeastward across the southeastern United States, the hurricane center said.
“The biggest change is that the storm could be slightly stronger overnight as it passes along or just off our coast, specifically Pinellas,” said Storm Team 8 Meteorologist Leigh Spann. “It may have winds then of 70 mph. The major concerns have not changed — high tides running 3 to 5 feet above normal overnight, flooding rain, downed trees, and isolated tornadoes.”
The storm is forecast to dump 3 to 5 inches of rain across the Florida Keys and southwest and western portions of the Florida Peninsula through Wednesday, with some areas seeing isolated maximum amounts of 8 inches. The rain could lead to significant flash and urban flooding and some river flooding, the hurricane center said. The rest of Florida could see 2 to 4 inches of rain through Wednesday night with isolated maximum amounts of 6 inches.
A storm surge warning is in effect for:
- West coast of Florida from Bonita Beach to the Aucilla
River, including Tampa Bay
A tropical storm warning is in effect for:
- The Cuban provinces of Matanzas, Mayabeque, Havana, and Artemisa
- The Florida Keys from Craig Key westward to the Dry Tortugas
- West coast of Florida from Flamingo northward to Ochlockonee River
A hurricane watch is in effect for:
- Egmont Key to the Steinhatchee River, Florida
A storm surge watch is in effect for:
- West of the Aucilla River to the Ochlockonee River, Florida
A tropical storm watch is in effect for:
- West of the Ochlockonee River to Indian Pass, Florida
- Mouth of St. Marys River to South Santee River, South Carolina