© Reuters. A man walks with an umbrella in front of Tropical Storm Elsa in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami, Florida, USA, July 5, 2021. REUTERS / Shannon Stapleton
(Reuters) – Tropical Storm Elsa was drenching the Florida Keys on Tuesday on its way north to the west coast of the state, where it was expected to make landfall with near-hurricane strength on Wednesday morning after. of throwing heavy rains on Cuba.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in an advisory Tuesday that downtown Elsa was about 65 miles west-northwest of Key West and moving north-northwest at around 10 mph ( 17 kph), with maximum sustained winds around 60 mph (95 kph).
Strong winds and rain hit Key West Tuesday morning and caused street flooding, although the center of the storm remained offshore.
There was a hurricane watch from Egmont Key in the Tampa Bay region to the Steinhatchee River, about 180 miles north along the Gulf Coast.
“A slow strengthening is forecast through tonight, and Elsa could be close to hurricane strength before it makes landfall in Florida,” the Miami-based meteorologist said.
After making landfall Wednesday morning along Florida’s Gulf Coast, the storm is forecast to move north-northeast across the southeastern United States through Thursday, dropping from 2 to 4 inches of rain on the Florida peninsula.
The arrival of tropical storm-force winds and rain threatened to impede search and rescue efforts at the site of a condo building collapse in Surfside, Florida, near Miami, where crews have examined debris for 12 days with the hope of finding survivors. As of Tuesday morning, 32 people were confirmed dead and 113 were still missing, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said.
Tornadoes were possible Tuesday in Florida and possible Wednesday in north Florida, southeastern Georgia and lower South Carolina, the NHC said.
WATER REPLACEMENT IN CUBA
Cubans breathed a sigh of relief Tuesday when Elsa appeared to have caused little damage in her nationwide rampage while actually helping to replenish water reservoirs.
The storm left the island east of the capital Havana, which woke up to cloudy skies after a rainy night, but without major flooding or damage. Cubans returned to the streets after authorities lifted their tropical storm warning, although heavy rains are expected to continue in some parts of the country.
“The best thing is that Elsa did not cause great damage because we have a really complicated situation here with the virus and now the hurricanes,” said Susana Pérez, 68, a retired teacher, queuing to buy oil amid a widespread shortage of goods. in the country.
Last week, Elsa, which briefly strengthened to become the first hurricane of the season, caused at least three deaths and damage to infrastructure and agriculture in the Caribbean island nations east of Cuba.
Preliminary damage estimates were more than $ 12 million in St. Lucia and $ 5.3 million in Jamaica, according to government officials.
Cuban provincial governors said in a video conference Monday night that Elsa had tested net positive in the center and east of the island, helping to replenish water reservoirs and causing little damage to infrastructure, according to state media.
“Around 400 million cubic meters of water could accumulate in the country’s reserves due to Elsa, bringing national reserves to 66% of total capacity after runoff from the mountains,” wrote Cubadebate.
The impact on the west of the country remains to be assessed, the governors said.