TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Elsa, the first hurricane of the year, has parts of Florida and other states in in its cone but still faces plenty of obstacles before it reaches the United States.
Elsa officially became the first hurricane of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season Friday morning after spending most of Thursday as a fast-moving tropical storm headed toward the Caribbean islands.
The latest track from the National Hurricane Center shows parts of the southeastern United States, including Florida, in Hurricane Elsa’s path. While the NHC says there is a risk of storm surge, wind and rainfall impacts in parts of Florida early next week, there is high uncertainty in Elsa’s position and strength in the long-range forecast, which means potential impacts to Florida could change.
According to the NHC, the forecast uncertainty is higher than usual because Elsa could potentially interact with the Greater Antilles this weekend – just one of the obstacles the storm faces before reaching the U.S.
As of 11 a.m. ET, Elsa is about 5 miles north of St. Vincent and 675 miles east-southeast of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. The system is still moving quickly, at about 29 mph, but is expected to slow down a bit by Sunday night. Elsa is expected to move across the eastern Caribbean Sea later Friday before moving near the southern coast of Hispaniola Saturday. By Sunday, the storm is forecast to be near Jamaica and parts of Cuba.
A hurricane warning is in effect for St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and parts of Haiti. A hurricane watch is in effect for parts of the Dominican Republic and Jamaica.
A tropical storm warning is in effect for Barbados, Martinique, Dominica, parts of the Dominican Republic, parts of the Haitian coast and Jamaica. A tropical storm watch is in effect for Grenada and its dependencies, Saba and Sint Eustatius and parts of the Dominican Republic coast.
At 11 a.m., Elsa had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph – making the storm a Category 1 hurricane. The NHC says there is little change expected in the forecast but winds could weaken on Monday when the system interacts with Cuba.
According to the NHC, flooding and mudslides are possible as Elsa dumps heavy rain on the islands in the Caribbean. There is also an increasing risk of strong winds, storm surge and heavy rainfall in parts of Cuba this weekend into early next week.
According to Dr. Philip Klotzbach with Colorado State University, Elsa is the earliest fifth named storm on record. The previous record was set last year by Edouard, which formed July 6.