Tropical Storm Elsa Prompts Hurricane Watch For Part of Florida's Western Coast

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July 6, 2021

Tropical Storm Elsa is tracking northward through the Gulf of Mexico and will bring heavy rain, strong winds gusts, storm surge and isolated tornadoes to Florida through Wednesday. Elsa will then spread some of its impacts up the Southeast and mid-Atlantic coasts into late week.

 

Via weather.com:

Tropical Storm Elsa is centered about 65 miles west-northwest of Key West, Florida, and is tracking north-northwest at 10 mph.

Bands of heavy rain and gusty winds continue to spread into South Florida. These rain bands could also produce isolated tornadoes at times. Wind gusts to 70 mph have been clocked amid the heavy rain in Key West and flooding has been reported in the Lower Keys.

Tropical-storm-force winds (39+ mph) are impacting a small area over the southwest Gulf and lower Florida Keys, generally in the locations in the orange shading on the map below.

  

 

A hurricane watch has been issued for a part of Florida's immediate west-central and Big Bend coast, from Egmont Key to the Steinhatchee River, including much of the Tampa Bay metro area. Although Elsa is not officially forecast to reach hurricane strength, there is some possibility of that happening right before landfall on Wednesday, but that would not significantly change the expected impacts.

A tropical storm warning is in effect for portions of the Florida Keys, from Craig Key westward to the Dry Tortugas, and also along and inland from the Gulf Coast of Florida from Flamingo to the Ochlocknee River near Apalachicola. This includes Key West, Marco Island, Naples, Sanibel Island, Sarasota-Bradenton and Tampa-St. Petersburg. Tropical storm conditions (winds 39+ mph) will continue to spread northward across these areas from later today through Wednesday.

A tropical storm watch extends from St. Marys River, Georgia, to South Santee River, South Carolina. Tropical storm conditions could spread into the Georgia and South Carolina watch areas Wednesday night into Thursday.

  

  

Forecast Path and Intensity

Elsa will turn north and then northeast around the western periphery of a high-pressure system in the western Atlantic through Wednesday.

Gulf of Mexico waters will be plenty warm enough for some reorganization of Elsa as it moves through the eastern Gulf. However, wind shear and dry air should slow the pace of any intensification before its landfall near Florida's Big Bend region early Wednesday.

There is some chance that Elsa could intensify enough to become a Category 1 hurricane prior to landfall. However, it's important to note this is unlikely to have a significant change on the expected impacts near where Elsa moves inland.

Elsa's impacts will spread northward through Florida Tuesday into Wednesday. The Tampa - St. Petersburg area will see its worst impacts from the storm Tuesday night into early Wednesday.

Other parts of the Southeast, including southeast Georgia, the coastal Carolinas and southeast Virginia, will see some impacts from Elsa late Wednesday into Thursday night. Elsa or its remnant could then brush parts of southeast New England on Friday.

  

Forecast Impacts

In general, most of Elsa's impacts - rain, wind, coastal flooding/surge, tornado threats - should occur along and to the east of the track of Elsa's center.

Below is a breakdown of the expected impacts from Elsa.

Storm Surge

Storm surge inundation is expected near and to the east of where Elsa's circulation center tracks.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) says storm surge could reach the following levels if peak surge arrives at the time of high tide:

-A storm surge of 3 to 5 feet above ground level is possible along Florida's western coast from Englewood to the mouth of the Aucilla River, including Tampa Bay. This will cause the inundation of some coastal locations in Tampa Bay similar to what was witnessed in November 2020 with Hurricane Eta. The typical trouble spots could have several feet of water in bayside streets.

-A storm surge of 2 to 4 feet above ground level is possible along Florida's western coast from Bonita Beach to Englewood, including Charlotte Harbor.

The NHC has issued a storm surge warning for both of the above areas.

-A storm surge of 2 to 4 feet above ground level is possible along Florida's Big Bend coast from west of the mouth of the Aucilla River to the mouth of the Ochlockonee River.

-A storm surge of 1 to 3 feet above ground level is possible in southwest Florida from Flamingo to Bonita Beach.

-A storm surge of 1 to 2 feet above ground level is possible in the Florida Keys from Craig Key to the Dry Tortugas, as well as along the Panhandle coast from the mouth of the Ochlockonee River to Indian Pass.

-A storm surge of 1 to 2 feet above ground level is possible on the Southeast coast from St. Marys River, Georgia, to South Santee River, South Carolina.

Here are the high tides of concern Wednesday:

-Clearwater Beach, Florida: 12:03 a.m. and 10:07 a.m.

-Cedar Key, Florida: 1:44 a.m. and 12:16 p.m.

 

Rainfall

Elsa is expected to produce the following rainfall totals in Florida and other parts of the Southeast U.S, according to NOAA:

-The Florida Keys, southwest and western parts of the Florida Peninsula can expect 3 to 5 inches of rain, with locally up to 8 inches possible.

-The rest of the Florida Peninsula can expect 2 to 4 inches of rain, with locally up to 6 inches possible.

-Southeast Georgia and South Carolina's Lowcountry are forecast to see 3 to 5 inches of rain, with locally up to 8 inches possible.

-Coastal parts of North Carolina into southeast Virginia might see 1 to 3 inches of rain, with locally up to 5 inches possible.

All of these areas could see at least localized flash flooding from Elsa's heavy rainfall.

 

Wind

Tropical storm conditions (winds 39+ mph) will spread northward across the western Florida Peninsula through Tuesday night and Wednesday. The strongest gusts will occur in thunderstorms or heavier bands of rain.

These stronger wind gusts could break some tree limbs, down trees and cause scattered power outages.

 

Tornadoes

Typical of most tropical cyclones, a few tornadoes and waterspouts are also possible in parts of the Florida Peninsula into Tuesday night or Wednesday given the potential increase in wind shear. The potential for isolated tornadoes could also spread into southeast Georgia and the Lowcountry of South Carolina by Wednesday or Wednesday night.

 

***Now is a good time to restock your supplies and review your emergency preparedness plan***

 

 

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