Tropical Storm Elsa was expected to make landfall in Cuba on Monday afternoon, after 180,000 people were evacuated from southern regions amid fears of heavy flooding.
Elsa is expected to bring tropical storm conditions to Florida, where Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in 15 counties, including Miami-Dade county, where the partially-collapsed Champlain Towers condominium was demolished with explosives on Sunday night.
Elsa is the earliest fifth-named storm on record and also broke the record as the tropic’s fastest-moving hurricane, clocking in at 31mph Saturday morning, Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami, told the Associated Press.
But the storm was downgraded from hurricane strength after it passed over Haiti and as of Monday morning had maximum wind speeds of 65 miles per hour.
Among the hardest-hit areas was Barbados, where more than 1,100 people reported damaged houses, including 62 homes that collapsed. The storm killed one person on St. Lucia; in the Dominican Republic, a 15-year-old boy and a 75-year-old woman died after walls collapsed on them. In Haiti, three people had been injured by downed trees.
The storm could strengthen slightly as it approaches Florida , the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.
“Some slight weakening is likely while Elsa crosses west-central Cuba today. Restrengthening over the Gulf of Mexico is likely to be limited,” forecasters wrote in the 11am advisory on Monday.
Elsa is projected to move westwards, reducing the threat for South Florida, including most of the lower Florida Keys. That shift, according to the Miami Herald, makes it more likely to land early on Wednesday around Florida’s Horseshoe Beach, north of the Suwannee River, and close to the Florida Panhandle.
While south Florida is out of “the cone of uncertainty”, gusty winds and heavy rain are still possible through Wednesday as the storm moves up the state’s west coast. Miami, a focus of concern as rescue workers continue their search for unaccounted-for victims of the Surfside collapse, is likely to experience peak winds of 25mph midday on Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.
The Associated Press contributed to this report