(Bloomberg) — Tropical Storm Elsa will gather strength as it churns just off Florida’s Gulf coast after flooding the Caribbean, where it killed at least three people.
Elsa, with top winds of 60 miles (97 kilometers) per hour, was forecast to intensify as it moves up the coast and eventually makes landfall Wednesday, likely north of Tampa, the National Hurricane Center said in an advisory at 8 a.m. New York time Tuesday. The storm’s top winds could reach 70 mph, just below the 74 mph hurricane threshold, prompting a hurricane watch from Egmont Key south of St. Petersburg to the Steinhatchee River about 200 miles north.
“Slow strengthening is forecast through tonight, and Elsa could be near hurricane strength before it makes landfall in Florida,” Richard Pasch and Philippe Papin, forecasters at the center, wrote in their outlook.
Elsa is the fifth Atlantic storm this year and briefly became the season’s first hurricane as it moved through the Caribbean last week. It will also be the third named storm to hit the U.S. this year. While meteorologists don’t expect the tally of Atlantic storms in 2021 to reach last year’s record of 30, they’re predicting a more active hurricane season than normal.
Elsa will be too far east to vex offshore energy production in the Gulf of Mexico.
As the storm nears shore, it could raise ocean levels by up to 4 feet (1.2 meters) along parts of Florida’s coast. It will also bring as much as 8 inches of rain across the Florida Keys and 6 inches across the rest of the state. From there Elsa will move across Georgia and the Carolinas, bringing heavy rain as it weakens.
The storm will likely restrengthen on Friday as it re-enters the Atlantic south of New Jersey and sweeps past New England and into the Canadian Maritimes by this weekend.
Elsa, combined with a weather front to the north, will likely bring heavy rain across the South, as well as to New York and New England through the rest of the week.