TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Tropical Storm Elsa is reaching hurricane strength and will likely become Hurricane Elsa again before its anticipated Tuesday evening landfall in Florida, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The 5 p.m. ET advisory from the NHC shows Elsa has 70 mph maximum sustained winds, just shy of Category 1 hurricane strength. Elsa is forecast to become a hurricane again before making landfall later Tuesday along Florida’s northern Gulf Coast. Once it starts moving inland, the storm is forecast to weaken again.
As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, the center of Tropical Storm Elsa was bout 155 miles south of Tampa and moving north at 9 mph. Several watches and warnings have been issued along Florida as the storm moves up the Gulf Coast. That includes a hurricane warning in effect from Egmont Key to the Steinhatchee River.
However, WFLA meteorologist Ian Oliver explained the classification of Elsa doesn’t change much.
“The impacts are exactly the same whether this is a high-end tropical storm or low-end hurricane,” he said. “You don’t want to get hung up on that.”
On the current forecast track, Elsa is expected to move near or over parts of Florida’s west coast later Tuesday into Tuesday night before making landfall along the north Florida Gulf Coast Wednesday. After landfall, it will move across the southeastern United States through Thursday.
As the storm moves along the coast, the NHC says heavy rainfall could lead to isolated flash, urban or minor river flooding. The NHC is also warning of life-threatening storm surge along parts of the coast. The latest advisory shows peak surge could reach as high as 3 to 5 feet in Tampa Bay.
“The combination of a storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline,” the NHC advisory says.
Coastal Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and southeastern Virginia could experience flash and urban flooding later in the week.