Tropical Storm Elsa Update as Hurricane Watch, 'Life-Threatening' Surge Warnings for Florida

A warning of a "life-threatening storm surge" has been issued for Florida's west coast, after Tropical Storm Elsa closed in on the state on Monday night.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) confirmed in the early hours of Tuesday morning that Elsa had reached the Florida Straits, as the agency said that the conditions are "beginning to deteriorate across the Florida Keys."

The storm is expected to reach wind speeds of up to 60 miles per hour when it hits Florida, as the agency warned of a "life-threatening storm surge" along the state's west coast on Tuesday and Wednesday, as a "Hurricane Watch" has also been issued for the area.

The agency has predicted that tropical storm conditions and storm surge impacts will extend along the coasts of Georgia and the Carolinas on Wednesday and Thursday, as the extreme weather is expected to move across the U.S.

Tropical Storm #Elsa Advisory 24: Elsa Near the Florida Keys. Hurricane Watch Has Been Issued For Portions of the West Coast Of Florida. https://t.co/VqHn0u1vgc

— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) July 6, 2021

"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 said about the storm's trajectory.

"Mid to late week heavy rains across coastal South Carolina and North Carolina may result in isolated flash and urban flooding."

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis expanded a state of emergency on Monday to cover 26 counties in the state, while President Joe Biden approved an Emergency Declaration on Sunday, in preparation for the tropical storm.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will coordinate all disaster relief efforts in the affected areas in Florida. Several schools have been shut and shelters have been set up for local residents.

The tropical storm has already caused devastation in the Caribbean, as three people were killed when the extreme weather passed over the Dominican Republic and St Lucia over the weekend.

More than 100,000 people in Cuba were also evacuated from their homes on Monday, as the storm passed over the island, causing mudslides and flooding in the area.

The storm is expected to continue to cause issues in Cuba when the extreme weather makes its way across to Florida, as the NHC predicted rainfall of 5 to 10 inches on the island overnight on Monday, with close to 15 inches in some areas.

Elsa was classified as the first hurricane of the Atlantic season on July 2, but was later downgraded to a tropical storm as it made its way across islands in the Caribbean.

The storm could affect the search-and-rescue operation at the site of the Surfside condo collapse in Miami, as the emergency services underwent a controlled demolition on Sunday to prevent any debris falling on rescuers during the storm.

The rescue operation, which was temporarily suspended after the demolition, restarted on Monday, as the teams work to find any survivors before Tropical Storm Elsa hits the area and possibly slows down the search.

Despite the heroic efforts from rescue crews, officials have so far only recovered 28 bodies at the site, while 117 people are still unaccounted for, according to Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.

No one has been pulled alive from the wreckage since the early hours of the rescue process, but Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said on Monday that the operation will continue "for the indefinite future until everybody is pulled out of that site."

Newsweek has contacted the National Hurricane Center for comment.

Florida braces for Tropical Storm Elsa
Cranes mark the skyline at the spot where a controlled demolition of the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo took place on July 5, 2021 in Surfside, Florida. The state's west coast is expected to be hit by Tropical Storm Elsa on Tuesday. Joe Raedle/Getty Images