Last updated at 8:55 a.m. Wednesday:
Heavy rain is expected to arrive in the Jacksonville area and last through the day today.
As of 8:30 a.m., 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.
Top sustained winds remain near 60 mph and Elsa's forward motion is slower, toward the north-northwest near 10 mph. The slower storm motion has delayed the arrival of tropical storm force winds along the Collier, Lee, and Charlotte county coasts until this afternoon. The arrival of tropical storm winds are expected in Sarasota, Manatee, and the Tampa/St. Pete metro areas early this evening. These winds are likely to arrive near the Nature Coast overnight and into North-Central and Northeast Florida Wednesday morning. Wind gusts as high as 65 mph are possible from the Tampa/St. Pete areas northward into the Nature Coast.
Update as of 5:30 a.m. Tuesday:
A Hurricane Watch has been issued from Egmont Key northward to the Steinhatchee River. Elsa is most likely to remain a tropical storm at landfall along Florida's Nature Coast early Wednesday morning, but there is a small chance it could reach hurricane status. Tropical Storm Warnings continue for the lower and middle Keys northward through the entire west coast of Florida to the Ochlockonee River in the Panhandle. Tropical Storm Watches remain in effect west of the Ochlockonee River to Indian Pass.
There is little change to the forecast track of Elsa. It is forecast to make landfall Wednesday morning along the Nature Coast. However, the forecast of the storm's center is indicated by the cone; significant effects will extend outside the cone and to the east of the center.
Original Story from 12:30 a.m. Tuesday:
Tropical Storm Elsa emerged over the warm waters of the Florida Straits Monday night, where some strengthening was expected as it reaches the Florida Keys Tuesday morning. Storm surge flooding and minor wind damage are becoming increasing likely along Florida's Gulf Coast from the Big Bend to Naples Tuesday into Wednesday as Elsa passes by.
As of 11 pm Monday, Tropical Storm Elsa's maximum sustained winds were up to 60 mph and the storm was moving NNW at 12 mph. The forecast track has remained largely unchanged, with a turn to the north expected Tuesday west of Fort Myers and a path parallel to the west coast of Florida Tuesday night and eventual landfall along the Nature Coast or Big Bend regions.
The arrival time of Elsa's tropical storm coastal impacts are summarized below:
- Key West: pre-dawn hours Tuesday
- Naples/Fort Myers: sunrise Tuesday
- Sarasota/Bradenton: late morning Tuesday
- Tampa/Lakeland: midday Tuesday
- Nature Coast: Tuesday night
- Big Bend: early Wednesday morning
A Storm Surge Warning was issued late Monday afternoon from Bonita Beach northward to the Apalachee Bay, where a life-threatening storm surge is possible from the persistent onshore winds on Elsa's eastern side. Swift water flooding of 3 to 5 feet above dry ground is possible from Aucilla River to Englewood, including all of the Nature Coast and Tampa Bay. A 2 to 4 foot storm surge is expected for areas farther south to Bonita Beach, with 1 to 3 feet of flooding possible south of there into the Florida Bay and Florida Keys.
A Tropical Storm Warning continues for all Gulf Coast counties in Florida from Flamingo northward to the Ocholockonee River, and from Craig Key westward to Key West. Tropical storm force winds in the 40 to 60 mph range are likely in the warned areas as the heaviest rain bands from Elsa rotate through.
A few tornadoes may occur from Tropical Storm Elsa's circulation as far east as the Atlantic Coast Tuesday afternoon . Some of the outer rain bands and squalls may acquire rotation as they pinwheel farther away from the storm's center and encounter a more unstable environment from less cloud cover and warmer afternoon temperatures. Areas most at risk for this to occur are roughly near and east of the I-75 corridor in North Florida and along and east of the Florida Turnpike in Central Florida. Waterspouts and brief tornadoes may also occur from the outer rain bands closer to Elsa's center along Florida's west coast too.
Flash flooding is possible from Tropical Storm Elsa, although the steady forward motion of the storm should prevent it from becoming a widespread hazard. Rainfall amounts of 2 to 4 inches are expected across the western half of the Florida peninsula, with isolated amounts up to 6 inches possible. 1 to 3 inches of rain are possible across the eastern side of the state and in eastern portions of the Florida Panhandle from Elsa.
Tropical Storm Elsa is forecast to weaken after the storm moves inland across North Florida Wednesday morning, likely being downgraded to a Tropical Depression as it crosses the border into southeast Georgia Wednesday afternoon. However, enhancements to the typical afternoon downpours may continue well into Wednesday and Thursday across the Florida peninsula thanks to a deep flow of moisture on the southern and eastern side of the tropical storm.