Warnings and watches stretched Monday morning from the Florida Keys up the state’s West Coast as Tropical Storm Elsa prepared to pummel the state with wind, rain and storm surge.
President Joe Biden issued a federal emergency declaration in Charlotte, Citrus, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Hernando, Hillsborough, Lee, Levy, Manatee, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Pasco, Pinellas and Sarasota counties, the White House announced late Sunday.
That came a day after Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a state of emergency in the same counties.
The National Hurricane Center said Monday morning that Tropical Storm Elsa, which had maximum sustained winds near 65 mph, was expected to move across central and western Cuba on Monday and pass near the Keys early Tuesday. It is then expected to move near or over parts of Florida’s West Coast on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“Rainfall from Elsa will impact portions of the Florida Keys, Florida peninsula and the coastal Southeast this week,” an 8 a.m. advisory from the hurricane center said. “Amounts of 2 to 4 inches with localized maximum amounts up to 6 inches are expected across Florida and coastal Georgia Monday through Wednesday, which may result in isolated flash (flooding), urban (flooding) and minor river flooding.”
A tropical storm warning was in effect from Craig Key, which is in the Middle Keys, west to the Dry Tortugas. It also was in effect on the state’s West Coast from Flamingo in Monroe County to Englewood at the border of Charlotte and Sarasota counties.
A tropical storm watch was in effect on the West Coast from Englewood all the way to the Aucilla River at the eastern border of Jefferson County. The tropical storm watch also was in effect for the eastern Florida Keys and Florida Bay.
While inexact, a “cone” of potential paths for the storm showed it could make landfall early Wednesday and cross through North Florida before going into Georgia. The hurricane center said additional watches and warnings likely would need to be issued later Monday.
Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy Florida and Tampa Electric --- which all have customers in the potential path of the storm --- said during the weekend that they had made preparations to restore electricity if needed.
“While the ultimate track and intensity of Elsa remains uncertain, we are closely monitoring the storm and are ready to respond,” Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL, said in a prepared statement Sunday. “This is the first storm of the season to directly affect the southern peninsula. Storms are nature’s way of clearing debris and it’s likely that flying debris and falling trees will cause outages and restoration challenges. Following severe weather, our crews must cut away trees and other vegetation that have fallen or blown into power lines to find and fix damage safely and as quickly as possible.”
The looming storm also led Sunday to crews demolishing the remaining portion of a collapsed condominium building in Surfside. The demolition came amid concerns that the instability of the remaining portion of the building posed a threat to search-and-rescue workers continuing to comb through the rubble.