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First Coast

Jacksonville Tornado Confirmed As Elsa Moves Into Georgia

At 5 p.m. Wednesday Tropical Storm Elsa had a maximum sustained wind speed of 45 mph and was moving north at 14 mph.

Last updated at 5:38 p.m. Wednesday: The National Weather Service says the tornado warning has now expired but damage reports are coming in, including at least one confirmed tornado.

5:21 p.m. update: The National Weather Service reports a confirmed tornado moving at 30 mph in Northwest Jacksonville. At last report it was in the Oceanway area and headed toward Yulee.

Tropical Storm Elsa is now moving into Southern Georgia, accompanied by very heavy rains. Elsa had a windspeed of 45 mph at 5 p.m. and was moving north at 14 mph.

4:58 p.m. Update: The heaviest rain and the strongest winds from Tropical Storm Elsa are rotating through the western Jacksonville metro area now.

At 4 p.m. the heaviest rain band was lined up just east of MacClenny to just west of Palatka. That band was rotating north through the Jacksonville area on the Westside. The strongest activity will likely stay near and west of I-95 with light to moderate rain occuring in all areas.

Related: Current radar, weather conditions, forecast

Flooding could be a growing concern in some western sections in the next few hours.  Wind gusts could be in the 30 to 40 mph range.

Elsa will cross the Florida/Georgia line near I-75 corridor in the next few hours as she continues to weaken.

 A Tornado Watch remains in effect from Lake City to Jacksonville until 8 p.m.

3:18 p.m. updateTropical Storm Elsa was weakening Wednesday afternoon over northern Florida as its maximum sustained wind speed dropped to 50 mph and the storm moved inland.

At 3 p.m. Elsa was located about 105 miles west of Jacksonville.

Locally, several inches of rain have fallen and several more are expected, which will contribute to the potential of flash flooding in some spots. The rainbands are expected to wrap up before midnight tonight and then conditions will gradually improve overnight and into Thursday morning in Jacksonville.

1:53 p.m. update: A Tornado Watch remains in effect from Lake City to Jacksonville until 8 p.m. Wednesday. Strong gusts near the St. Johns River in Jacksonville and along the beachfront in Duval, Nassau, and St. Johns counties have been near 40 mph as of late Wednesday morning. 

11:00 a.m. update: Tropical Storm Elsa had maximum sustained winds of 65 mph and was moving north at 14 mph at 11 a.m. on Wednesday.

Isolated tornadoes remain possible near the I-10 corridor from the Live Oak and Lake City areas to near Jacksonville, but the threat is slowly expected to diminish late Wednesday afternoon. Areas of flash flooding, along with gusts of 30 to 40 mph, were still possible from Ocala and Gainesville eastward to the First Coast Wednesday afternoon.

Several inches of rain have fallen locally during Elsa's rainbands and that will contribute to the potential for flash flooding. 

Elsa made landfall as a tropical storm late Wednesday morning along Florida's Nature Coast. Its winds are expected to weaken, but flash flooding and isolated tornadoes are possible Wednesday afternoon, especially in North-Central and Northeast Florida.

Related: Area Wednesday closures

A rainfall record of 1.58" was set in Leesburg Wednesday morning, beating the former record of 1.54" set in 1972, according to the National Weather Service.

A feeder band far removed from the center of Elsa produced some of the state's heaviest rainfall totals in parts of Southwest Florida. Estimates from radar and gauges are showing between 6 and 10 inches of rain has fallen from eastern Manatee and Hardee counties southward into Desoto, Charlotte, and Lee counties. 2 to 5 inches of rain has fallen in the Tampa/St. Pete metro areas east into Polk county, with localized amounts greater than a half foot in a small part of northwestern Hillsborough and southern Pasco counties. So far, rain amounts have been limited along most of the Atlantic coast, which has been farthest removed from the center of Elsa.

Credit FPREN

Tropical storm force gusts have been observed in Pinellas county northward to Cedar Key, between 45 and 60 mph at times Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. 

Residual bands are possible anywhere over the Peninsula until about midnight Wednesday night before Elsa pulls away into the Carolinas. There are currently no other areas in the tropical Atlantic that are likely to develop into a tropical depression or tropical storm over the next week.

10:55 a.m. update: While there's been a great deal of attention on the core of Elsa, there are still feeder bands far from the center that are producing heavy rain over Southwest Florida. Flood Warnings are in effect over parts of Lee, Charlotte, and Sarasota counties.

8:30 a.m. Update: As of 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, the center of Elsa was 35 miles from Cedar Key and it's expected to make landfall along the Dixie or Taylor county coasts around midday. Much of the bad weather is extending far east of the center, including flooding rain in the Fort Myers area, heavy rain from The Villages to Ocala and Gainesville, and heavier bands along the East Coast from the Space Coast north to near St. Augustine.  

The persistent rain bands are on their way into North-Central and Northeast Florida later this morning and afternoon.

“I'm anticipating flash flooding, isolated tornadoes, and occasional gusts up to around 50 mph in the strongest bands,” said Florida Public Radio Emergency Network meteorologist Ray Hawthorne.

Hawthorne said rainfall amounts are likely to exceed 9 inches in places, which will easily cause urban flash flooding and rapid rises in streams and some rivers. He says the strongest gusts may cause some power outages and that tornadoes may briefly develop.

Update 5:30 AM EDT Wednesday: Elsa has top sustained winds of 60 mph and is located 50 miles south-southwest of Cedar Key and 70 miles west-northwest of Tampa. Hurricane Warnings continue for Citrus county north to the Steinhatchee River.  Tropical Storm Warnings are in effect west of Steinhatchee River to the Ochlockonee River, and from Hernando county south to Englewood.

The heaviest rain band is trailing the circulation, from the Fort Myers area north to Lakeland, Orlando, The Villages and northward toward Ocala, Gainesville, and the Nature Coast. Isolated tornadoes and flash flooding are likely in the band. Occasional gusts of 40 to 50 mph are possible.

Heavy rain is expected to arrive in Northeast Florida and the Jacksonville area after sunrise and lasting through the day today.

The rain bands will begin to diminish around midnight as the storm moves into the Carolinas.

Update 2:15 AM EDT Wednesday: Elsa is a tropical storm once again 60 miles west of Tampa and 95 miles south-southwest of Cedar Key. It has top sustained winds of 70 mph and is moving toward the north near 14 mph. Heavy rain bands are causing flooding from the Nature Coast south to the Tampa/St. Pete metro area and into Polk county before trailing southward into Manatee, Desoto, Hardee, eastern Manatee, and eastern Sarasota counties.