Elsa Path Update As Tropical Storm Builds Speed En Route to Cuba, Florida

Tropical Storm Elsa is expected to build speed and cross over Cuba, bringing disruptive weather conditions to Florida and along the coasts of Georgia and the Carolinas this week.

The storm, which formed east of the Caribbean Sea on Thursday, July 1, was promoted from a tropical storm to a Category 1 hurricane by morning Friday, July 2.

It is now expected to bring tropical storm conditions to the Florida Keys and southwestern Florida by Monday night.

"Elsa is expected to move across central and western Cuba later today [Monday] and pass near the Florida Keys early Tuesday. Elsa is then forecast to move near or over portions of the west coast of Florida on Tuesday and Wednesday," the National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned on Monday morning.

Storm Elsa five-day trajectory
A five-day trajectory of the storm's projected path through the region. National Hurricane Center

Tropical storm conditions are expected in portions of the Florida Keys and southwestern Florida tonight and Tuesday. A Tropical Storm Watch and a Tropical Storm Surge Watch are currently in effect for much of the west coast of Florida from Bonita Beach to the Suwannee River.

Elsa is the first hurricane of the 2021 season and is expected to bring heavy rainfall, flash flooding, rising water levels and tropical-storm-force winds.

"As Elsa approaches the Florida Keys, Florida Peninsula and coastal Georgia Monday through Wednesday, heavy rainfall may result in isolated flash, urban and minor river flooding," the NHC added. "Mid to late week heavy rains across coastal South Carolina and North Carolina may result in isolated flash and urban flooding."

The risk of tropical storm conditions and storm surge impacts is predicted to extend along the coasts of Georgia and the Carolinas Wednesday and Thursday.

Tropical Storm Elsa
The graphic from the National Hurricane Center from July 5 2021 shows the current position of Tropical Storm Elsa. Residents in Florida are advised to be aware of the path of the Atlantic hurricane season's 5th storm. National Hurricane Center

A Tropical Storm Watch is now in effect as far north as the Tampa Bay area along Florida's west coast. A Storm Surge Watch is in effect from Bonita Beach northward to the Suwanee River. More info: https://t.co/tW4KeFW0gB #Elsa pic.twitter.com/7eKYf74GLb

— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) July 4, 2021

Maximum sustained winds remain near 65 miles per hour, with higher gusts anticipated. Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 70 miles from the center.

A storm surge will raise water levels above normal tide levels. Water in the Bonita Beach to Suwannee River region, including Tampa Bay, could reach heights of up to 4 feet.

A couple of tornadoes are also possible across south Florida Monday night into Tuesday.

A Tropical Storm Warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area, while a Storm Surge Watch means there is a possibility of life-threatening inundation, from rising water moving inland from the coastline, in the indicated locations during the next 48 hours, the agency said.

Officials are urging residents to prepare for the incoming weather.

Tropical Storm Elsa surface wind speeds
This graphic shows the probabilities of sustained (1-minute average) surface wind speeds equal to or exceeding 34 kt (39 mph) based on the official National Hurricane Center (NHC) track, intensity, and wind radii forecasts, and on NHC forecast error statistics for those forecast variables during recent years. National Hurricane Center
Tropical Storm Elsa
A Tropical Storm Watch and a Tropical Storm Surge Watch are in effect for much of the west coast of Florida. National Hurricane Center
Hurricane Elsa
Hurricane Elsa on July 2. NOAA

Elsa is the earliest fifth-named storm on record, according to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach. He also noted that Elsa is "the farthest east that a hurricane has formed this early in the calendar year in the tropical Atlantic" since 1933.

Federal scientists have predicted that there could be up to 20 named storms, 10 hurricanes and five major hurricanes of Category 3 level or higher during the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30.

There are also fears that the approaching storm could affect the rescue operation in Surfside, near Miami, where the search for survivors of a collapsed structure at Champlain Towers South is continuing.

Champlain Towers South condo
A pile of debris remains after the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo was taken down with a controlled demolition on July 4, 2021 in Surfside, Florida. There were fears that the structure might come down uncontrollably with the approach of Tropical Storm Elsa. Joe Raedle/Getty Images