sunny.png
Monday July 26th, 2021 11:44AM

Tropical Storm Elsa gaining strength, lashing Florida Keys

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The weather was getting worse in southern Florida on Tuesday morning as Tropical Storm Elsa began lashing the Florida Keys, complicating the search for survivors in the condo collapse and prompting a hurricane watch for the peninsula's upper Gulf Coast.

In addition to damaging winds and heavy rains, the Miami-based U.S. National Hurricane Center warned of life-threatening storm surges, flooding and isolated tornadoes. A hurricane watch was issued for a long stretch of coastline, from Egmont Key at the mouth of Tampa Bay to the Steinhatchee River in Florida's Big Bend area.

The Tampa area is highly vulnerable to storm surge because the offshore waters and Tampa Bay are quite shallow, experts say.

But on the barrier island beach towns along the Gulf Coast, it was largely business as usual with few shutters or plywood boards going up. Free sandbags were being handed out at several locations, and a limited number of storm shelters opened Tuesday morning in at least four counties around the Tampa Bay area, although no evacuations have been ordered.

Nancy Brindley, 85, who lives in a seaside house built in 1923, said she has experienced 34 previous tropical cyclones and is not having shutters put on her windows. Her main concern is what will happen to sand on the adjacent beach and the dunes that protect her house and others. She’s staying through the storm.

“The main concern here is, if it doesn’t speed up and decides to stall, there will be enormous erosion,” she said.

Friends Chris Wirtz, 47, and Brendan Peregrine, 44, were staying put at a beachfront inn with their families. Both are from Tampa, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) across the bay and have been through storms many times.

“Before we left, we knew it was coming,” Wirtz said.

Peregrine said the two families had been coming to the Pinellas County beach for 10 years. He noted they have ample supplies and a charcoal grill to cook on if the power goes out.

“We can hunker down for days,” Peregrine said.

Still, some people were taking no chances. Annie Jones, 51, has lived along the Gulf Coast her entire life. She was buying ice and food at a local grocery store in advance of the storm.

”“I’ve seen this happen over the years and I decided to load up,” Jones said. “I thought it’s best to beat the crowd. My vision is to be prepared.”

Bands of rain were expected to reach Surfside on Florida's Atlantic coast, soaking the rubble of the Champlain Towers South, which collapsed June 24, killing at least 32 people. Search and rescue crews have worked through rain in search of more than 100 others listed as missing, but must pause when lightning threatens, and a garage area in the pancaked debris already filled with water Monday, officials said.

Elsa’s maximum sustained winds stood at 60 mph (95 kph) early Tuesday. A slow strengthening is forecast through Tuesday night and Elsa could be near hurricane strength before it makes landfall in Florida. Its core was about 65 miles (105 kilometers) west-northwest of Key West, Florida, and 215 miles (345 kilometers) south of Tampa. It was continuing to move to the north-northwest at 10 mph (16 kph).

The forecast included the possibility of tornadoes across South Florida on Tuesday morning and across the upper peninsula later in the day.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis expanded a state of emergency to cover a dozen counties where Elsa was expected to make a swift passage Wednesday, and President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for the state ahead of the storm.

Forecasters predicted Elsa would hit coastal Georgia and South Carolina after Florida. Georgia's coast was under a tropical storm watch, as was much of the South Carolina coast. Forecasters said tornadoes could strike in the eastern Carolinas and Virginia as Elsa moves north.

The storm surge could reach 5 feet (1.5 meters) over normally dry land in the Tampa Bay area if Elsa passes at high tide, forecasters said. Commander Col. Ben Jonsson said only essential personnel were being allowed Tuesday morning on MacDill Air Force Base, which is located along the bay on the South Tampa peninsula.

Tampa International Airport planned to shut down Tuesday at 5 p.m.

At a Tuesday morning news briefing, DeSantis reminded residents not to focus on the Tropical Storm Elsa’s so-called “cone of concern” because the storm’s “impacts are expected well outside that area.”

“And if you look at how the storm is it’s incredibly lopsided to the east,” DeSantis said. “So most of the rainfall is going to be east of the center of the storm.”

Elsa’s westward shift spared the lower Florida Keys a direct hit, but the islands were still getting plenty of rain and wind Tuesday. Tropical storm warnings were posted for the Florida Keys from Craig Key westward to the Dry Tortugas and for the west coast of Florida from Flamingo northward to the Ochlockonee River.

Cuban officials evacuated 180,000 people against the possibility of heavy flooding from a storm that already battered several Caribbean islands, killing at least three people. But Elsa spent Sunday and much of Monday sweeping parallel to Cuba’s southern coast, sparing most of the island from significant effects.

Elsa is the earliest fifth-named storm on record, said Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami.

___

Frisaro contributed from Fort Lauderdale.

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, Top General short headlines, AP Online - Georgia News, AP Online Headlines - Georgia News
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Storm threat hangs over renewed search at Florida condo site
A ramped-up rescue effort at the collapsed South Florida condo building is facing new threats from the weather as a tropical storm approaches the state
6:51AM ( 23 minutes ago )
Pope Francis eats breakfast, takes walk 2 days after surgery
The Vatican says Pope Francis has eaten breakfast, read the newspapers and taken a walk as he continues recovering from intestinal surgery
6:49AM ( 25 minutes ago )
Merkel party readies campaign for bid to keep top German job
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party has presented a campaign for Germany’s September election that portrays would-be successor Armin Laschet as a conciliatory, experienced leader and mixes classic center-right themes with an attempt to show fighting climate change as an economic opportunity
6:44AM ( 30 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
White man who pushed Black neighbor in racist rant arrested
A white man who is seen in video footage pushing a Black neighbor with his chest and using racist slurs to address the neighbor and others on Friday has been arrested
5:45AM ( 1 hour ago )
New US rules to protect animal farmers expected this week
The Biden administration plans to issue a new rule to protect the rights of farmers who raise cows, chickens and hogs against the country’s largest meat processors as part of a plan to encourage more competition in the agriculture sector
5:32AM ( 1 hour ago )
Tropical Storm Elsa, back over water, takes aim at Florida
According to the National Hurricane Center, the conditions in southern Florida have begun to deteriorate as Tropical Storm Elsa took aim at the Florida Keys early Tuesday, prompting a hurricane watch for portions of the west coast of state
5:27AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
Hunt for Capitol attackers still on 6 months after Jan. 6
Six months after the Capitol insurrection, the Justice Department is still hunting for scores of rioters, even as the first of more than 500 people already arrested have pleaded guilty
12:03AM ( 7 hours ago )
R. Kelly's lawyer wants trial delayed due to jail quarantine
R. Kelly’s new lawyers are asking a judge to postpone his Aug. 9 sex trafficking trial in New York City, arguing they haven’t had enough time to prepare because he’s under a mandatory jail quarantine
8:10PM ( 11 hours ago )
Demolition widens search at condo site, but storms threaten
Stormy weather is hampering search efforts at the site of a collapsed Florida condo building
7:15PM ( 11 hours ago )
Top U.S. News short headlines
Gamel hits 2 HRs, drives in 6 runs; Pirates rip Braves 11-1
Ben Gamel homered twice and drove in six runs to lead the Pittsburgh Pirates past the Atlanta Braves 11-1 on Monday night
11:34PM ( 7 hours ago )
Tropical Storm Elsa moving across west Cuba, then to Florida
Tropical Storm Elsa is sweeping over western Cuba with strong rain and winds, and forecasters say it will move on to the Florida Keys on Tuesday and Florida’s central Gulf coast by Wednesday
8:01PM ( 11 hours ago )
Hawks reach agreement to make Nate McMillan full-time coach
The Atlanta Hawks have reached an agreement with interim coach Nate McMillan to accept a full-time role after he led the team to an improbable run to the Eastern Conference finals
2:35PM ( 16 hours ago )
AP Online - Georgia News
AP Online Headlines - Georgia News
Storm threat hangs over renewed search at Florida condo site
A ramped-up rescue effort at the collapsed South Florida condo building is facing new threats from the weather as a tropical storm approaches the state
6:51AM ( 23 minutes ago )
Pope Francis eats breakfast, takes walk 2 days after surgery
The Vatican says Pope Francis has eaten breakfast, read the newspapers and taken a walk as he continues recovering from intestinal surgery
6:49AM ( 25 minutes ago )
Merkel party readies campaign for bid to keep top German job
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party has presented a campaign for Germany’s September election that portrays would-be successor Armin Laschet as a conciliatory, experienced leader and mixes classic center-right themes with an attempt to show fighting climate change as an economic opportunity
6:44AM ( 30 minutes ago )
6 students among 9 arrested in alleged Hong Kong bomb plot
Hong Kong police say nine people have been arrested for allegedly plotting to set off homemade bombs in courts, tunnels and trash cans as political tensions rise in the city where China is tightening its grip
6:40AM ( 33 minutes ago )
Wreckage found in Russia after plane went missing
Russia’s state aviation agency says that wreckage from of a plane that went missing in the Far East region of Kamchatka has been found around five kilometers (three miles) away from a runway in an airport on the Okhotsk Sea coast where it was supposed to land
6:23AM ( 51 minutes ago )