Elsa, downgraded to a tropical storm, lashes Florida's Gulf Coast

Fishermen secure their boats ahead of the passage of Tropical Storm Elsa in Havana, Cuba, on July 5. Elsa made landfall in Cuba and is now headed to Florida.
People secure their boats ahead of the passage of Tropical Storm Elsa in Havana on Monday. Elsa made landfall in Cuba and is now headed to Florida.
Yamil Lage | AFP via Getty Images

As it moves along Florida's west coast, Elsa has been downgraded to a tropical storm.

The National Hurricane Center says that Elsa will likely make landfall along the Florida Gulf Coast by late Wednesday morning. From there, forecasters predict that the eye of the storm will come ashore north of Tampa Bay, then move slowly along the eastern seaboard for the next few days.

The center says the storm system had previously strengthened into a hurricane while southwest of Tampa Bay. This came after the storm crossed Cuba on Monday, leading to significant flooding and mudslides across the western and central regions of the country. According to The Associated Press, Cuban officials evacuated 180,000 people as a precaution.

While there aren't evacuation orders set for Gulf Coast states that are forecasted to be hit by the storm, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp have both issued states of emergency for several counties in their respective states.

Although the National Hurricane Center says Elsa will weaken as it moves inland, the western coast of Florida can expect a storm surge that would lift water levels up to 5 feet in certain areas, including Tampa. Much of Florida could see heavy rainfall that could reach 6 inches in some places; the storm will then bring heavy rains to Georgia and the Carolinas later in the week.

The agency also warns that tornadoes are possible across the Florida peninsula, as well as southeast Georgia and South Carolina in the coming days.

Florida officials were worried that the storm could destabilize what was left of the condominium building in Surfside, Fla., that partially collapsed over a week ago. In order to avoid an uncontrolled collapse, they approved the demolition of the remaining portion of the building, which took place on Sunday night.

"The hurricane was coming, the potential for that building to fall on the pile with the victims in it was a tragic thought," Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett told NPR on Monday.

It's early in the hurricane season. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted a busier-than-average Atlantic hurricane season, but it would be hard to top last year's, which set an all-time record with 30 named storms.

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