- Elsa made landfall around 11 a.m. Wednesday in lightly populated Taylor County along Florida’s northern Gulf Coast.
- Flash flooding and isolated rain totals up to 5 inches are possible as far north as the New England states.
- Elsa is forecast to move across the southeastern and mid-Atlantic U.S. through Thursday.
Even after it lost some of its punch, a resilient Tropical Storm Elsa headed across the Georgia coast and into South Carolina Wednesday night, killing one and injuring several others in the Florida border.
Elsa’s maximum winds had sustained at 45 mph as it traveled over southern Georgia, the National Hurricane Center said in its 11 p.m. EDT update. From its location about 80 miles northwest of Brunswick, Georgia and 150 miles west-southwest of Charleston, South Carolina, the storm was expected to follow a steady path north and have an impact all the way up the Eastern Seaboard the rest of the week.
Forecasters predicted Elsa would remain a tropical storm into Friday, and issued a tropical storm warning from South Carolina to New Jersey Wednesday night.
Flash flooding and isolated rain total up to 5 inches are possible as far north as the New England states. Tornadoes may also develop from the southeastern U.S. up to Virginia on Wednesday and Thursday.
After a slog up the west coast of Florida, Elsa made landfall around 11 a.m. Wednesday in lightly populated Taylor County along the state’s northern Gulf Coast, the hurricane center said. Earlier, Key West streets had turned to roaring rivers and Tampa was blasted by high winds and heavy rains.
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 (80 kph) wind gusts in the city. The tree fell during heavy rains, said Capt. Eric Prosswimmer of the Jacksonville Fire Rescue Department. He said no one else was injured.
“Now is a time to remember… that weather is unpredictable,” Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said during a news conference Wednesday evening as he urged drivers to stay off the road. “This is really early in the (hurricane) season. We’re just outside of the July 4th holiday, we’ve had our first storm and, unfortunately, we’ve had a fatality.”
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.
Off the coast of Key West, the Coast Guard and a good Samaritan boat on Tuesday rescued 13 people who were part of a group of 22 that left Cuba on a boat that capsized in waters churned by the storm. Nine people were still missing.
Elsa, downgraded from hurricane to tropical storm, had been moving almost parallel to the west coast of Florida for the past day or so.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said a “wobble” to the west as the storm approached Tampa helped keep damage to a minimum. No fatalities or serious injuries had been reported so far, he said.
“All things considered, where we looked at 72 hours ago, I think the impacts have been less than what we thought would be reasonable,” DeSantis said. “We are fortunate.”
DeSantis said there were up to 26,000 customers without power in the Tampa Bay area, most of them in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Polk counties.
All tropical storm warnings have been discontinued along the Florida Gulf coast. Much of Central Florida remained under a tornado watch, however, as rain bands and severe thunderstorms associated with Elsa move across the state.
Officials at Tampa International Airport suspended operations late Tuesday, forcing the cancellation of about 200 flights, but resumed them at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday after checking for storm damage. Elsa brought gusts of up to 41 mph overnight.
The storm complicated the search for potential survivors and victims in the June 24 collapse of a Miami-area building. Despite that challenge, crews continued the search in the rubble of Champlain Towers South in Surfside. The death toll from that tragedy rose to 54 Wednesday.
Elsa should move across the southeastern and mid-Atlantic U.S. through Thursday, said Jack Beven, a senior hurricane specialist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Hurricane Center in Miami.
A tropical storm watch was issued Wednesday night for southern New England, from New Haven, Connecticut, to Sagamore Beach, Massachusetts – including Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket – and into Long Island.
Elsa became the first hurricane of the season last week, blasting through the Caribbean and leaving three people dead. It calmed somewhat to a tropical storm but regained hurricane status Tuesday for a few hours before returning to a tropical storm.