Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday morning that a hurricane watch is now in effect for Florida’s west coast and that Tropical Storm Elsa is expected to make landfall along the Levy, Citrus and Dixie County coastline early Wednesday.
Tropical Storm Elsa made landfall in Cuba Monday and moved north into the the Gulf of Mexico Tuesday morning. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) pegs the storm at 55 miles west of Key West moving north-northwest at 12 miles per hour with maximum winds near 60 mph.
“Elsa is expected to be near hurricane strength tonight prior to making landfall in Florida,” DeSantis said at a Tuesday morning press conference.
The storm is tracking the west coast today, bringing with it strong wind gusts and rain with the potential of isolated tornadoes.
“Floridians should not focus on the cone,” DeSantis warned. “Impacts are expected well outside that area.”
Forecasters described Elsa as lopsided to the east and predicted most of the rainfall to fall east of the storm over much of Florida.
There are 22 counties on the west coast now under a tropical storm warning with a hurricane watch in effect for coastal areas from Pinellas to Dixie counties.
A storm surge watch is also in effect from Taylor to Lee counties with flash flooding possible.
“Whether it’s a hurricane, tropical storm, those winds are what they are,” DeSantis said. “They are obviously going to have an impact. You’re going to see a lot of rain dumped particularly on the northern part of the state that is already saturated.”
That wet ground coupled with more rain can add up to flash flooding.
“Be prepared to be without power for a few days,” DeSantis said, adding that most impacts will occur overnight.
Currently, no widespread evacuations are expected, but DeSantis called on Floridians to “heed warnings from local officials.”
Florida Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie said the state emergency response team is working around the clock as it has for the past 480 days straight through the pandemic and Surfside building collapse.
“I had personal phone calls with each and every county EM director that is under watch,” said Guthrie said, who noted that any county that has requested supplies or additional personnel will receive them prior to landfall.
More than 200 National Guard members are activated and pushing supplies out of the Orlando warehouse, Guthrie said.
“We stand ready,” he said. “We will be here overnight tonight working and being on the ground ready to go if any of our counties should need us.”