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Elsa On Track To Bring Tropical Storm Conditions To Florida's West Coast, Lower Keys

Tropical Storm Watches and Warnings and a Storm Surge Watch are posted a little more than a day prior to the arrival of Tropical Storm Elsa's effects in Florida.

Elsa was just about to pass over central Cuba late Tuesday morning. Top sustained winds were near 65 mph as of the mid-morning advisory from the National Hurricane Center. It is still moving steadily toward the northwest at about 14 mph, but it is about half the speed it was moving Friday and Saturday morning.


A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect from Craig Key westward to the Dry Tortugas, including Key West. The warning extends northward along the west coast from Flamingo to Englewood, including the Naples and Fort Myers areas. Warnings are issued when tropical storm force winds are likely within 24 hours. In this case, the Keys are likely to see tropical storm conditions arrive late Monday afternoon and night before they reach Collier and Lee counties Monday morning.

Tropical Storm Watches are up from north of Englewood to the Aucilla River, including Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Tampa, and the Nature Coast. Tropical storm conditions are possible in these areas starting Tuesday afternoon from Sarasota and Manatee counties into the Tampa/St. Pete areas. These conditions are likely to spread toward the Nature Coast Tuesday night.

Tropical storm gusts could make it as far inland as The Villages, Ocala, and Gainesville late Tuesday night and make it to the Big Bend to Northeast Florida from Lake City to Jacksonville first thing on Wednesday.

Areas along the beachfront in the watch and warning areas are most likely to experience occasional gusts of 50 to 60 mph in the strongest rain bands. Farther inland, gusts between 35 and 45 mph are possible especially north of the Orlando metropolitan area toward The Villages, Ocala, Gainesville, Lake City, and much of Northeast Florida. 

Rainfall amounts of 2 to 4 inches, with isolated amounts as high as 6 inches, are forecast over much of the Florida Peninsula. The highest totals are expected closer to the west coast, but a few places along the Atlantic coast could receive these amounts also. The heaviest bands are capable of flash flooding, urban flooding, and minor river flooding.

Storm Surge Watches were in place from Bonita Beach to the Suwannee River, including Tampa Bay. The watch means water level rises of 2 to 4 feet above normally dry ground are possible somewhere within the watch area. The surge is highly dependent on tidal cycles, can vary over short distances, and may not occur in all locations within the watch area. High tides are around midday Tuesday and during the wee hours of Wednesday morning, and may present the greatest potential for surge flooding along the coast.

Much of the Florida Peninsula will be to the east of the storm's center. This places much of the state in a favorable position for isolated tornadoes. These brief tornadoes or waterspouts could occur over the Keys late Monday and spread over the rest of the state Tuesday through Wednesday morning.

Conditions are likely to improve statewide once Elsa moves northeastward into the Carolinas Wednesday afternoon or Wednesday night.

Sources include nearest National Weather Service office, National Hurricane Center, and the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network (@FloridaStorms).
Sources include nearby emergency management agencies, FEMA, and your local NPR affiliate. 
Sources include the Florida Department of Transportation, Florida Highway Patrol and other nearby traffic information.

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Partners of the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network include: Florida's Division of Emergency Management, WDNA (Miami), WFIT (Melbourne), WMFE (Orlando), WFSU (Tallahassee), WGCU (Fort Myers), WJCT (Jacksonville), WKGC (Panama City), WLRN (Miami), WMNF (Tampa-Sarasota), WQCS (Fort Pierce), WUFT (Gainesville-Ocala), WUSF (Tampa), WUWF (Pensacola) and Florida Public Media.

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