Tropical storm Elsa pounds East Coast after killing 1 in Florida

Weather

SAVANNAH, Ga. (NewsNation Now) — Tropical Storm Elsa carved a destructive and soaking path up the East Coast after killing at least one person in Florida and spinning up a tornado at a Georgia Navy base that flipped recreational vehicles upside-down and blew one of them into a lake.

Elsa’s winds strengthened slightly Thursday morning to 45 mph, and it was dropping torrential rains as it made its way through North Carolina late Thursday morning, the National Hurricane Center said in its latest update. Elsa was expected to pass near the eastern mid-Atlantic states by Thursday night and move near or over the northeastern United States on Friday.

Some re-strengthening was possible Thursday night and Friday while the system moves close to the northeastern United States.

A tropical storm warning was in effect north of Great Egg Inlet, New Jersey to Sandy Hook, New Jersey, and for the coast of Long Island from East Rockaway Inlet to the eastern tip along the south shore and from Port Jefferson Harbor eastward on the north shore. A warning was also in effect from New Haven, Connecticut to Merrimack River, Massachusetts including Cape Cod, Block Island, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket.

There was a chance Long Island in New York would see sustained tropical storm-force winds late Thursday night and into Friday morning, the National Weather Service in New York warned.

Elsa seemed to spare Florida from significant damage, though it still threatened flooding downpours and caused several tornado warnings. The coasts of Georgia and South Carolina were under a tropical storm warning. Forecasters predicted Elsa would remain a tropical storm into Friday, and issued a tropical storm watch from North Carolina to Massachusetts.

Authorities in Jacksonville, Florida, said one person was killed Wednesday when a tree fell and struck two cars. The National Weather Service reported 50 mph wind gusts in the city. The tree fell during heavy rains and no one else was injured, according to Capt. Eric Prosswimmer of the Jacksonville Fire Rescue Department.

In nearby Camden County, Georgia, a possible tornado struck a park for recreational vehicles at Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base. About 10 people were injured and taken to hospitals by ambulance, said base spokesman Scott Bassett. The extent of their injuries was not immediately clear. He said some buildings on the base appeared to have been damaged as well.

An EF-2 tornado flipped over multiple RVs, blowing one of the overturned vehicles about 200 feet into a lake, the National Weather Service said in a preliminary report early Thursday after its employees surveyed the damage. Debris from the RVs was strewn throughout the park, the agency said.

Sergio Rodriguez, who lives near the RV park, said he raced to the scene fearing friends staying at the park might be hurt. The area was under a tornado warning Wednesday evening.

“There were just RVs flipped over on their sides, pickup trucks flipped over, a couple of trailers had been shifted and a couple of trailers were in the water” of a pond on the site, Rodriguez said in a phone interview.

Cellphone video he filmed at the scene showed trees bent low among scattered debris. He said ambulances arrived and began treating dazed people trying to understand what had happened.

“A bunch of folks had lacerations and were just banged around,” Rodriguez said. “A majority of folks were in their trailers when it happened.”

The hurricane center said there was a risk of flooding in South Carolina, which was predicted to get 3 to 5 inches (8 to 13 centimeters) of rainfall.

More than 7 inches of rain was recorded at a weather station near Gainesville, Florida, the weather service reported. More than 5 inches of rain had fallen by early Thursday at Sapelo Island off the Georgia coast; and at a weather station along the Savannah River in Jasper County, South Carolina.

Scattered power outages were being reported along Elsa’s path Wednesday evening, with about 35,000 homes and businesses on either side of the Georgia-Florida state line without electricity, according to the website poweroutages.us.

The storm complicated the search for potential survivors and victims in the collapse of a Miami-area condominium on June 24. Regardless, crews continued the search in the rubble of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida, on the state’s southeast coast.

The storm also temporarily halted demolition Wednesday on the remainder of an overturned cargo ship off the coast of Georgia. The South Korean freighter Golden Ray capsized in September 2019 off St. Simons Island, about 70 miles (110 kilometers) south of Savannah. Crews have removed more than half the ship since November.

Elsa is the earliest fifth-named storm on record, said Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami.

The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliates from around the country contributed to this report.

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