Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) declared a state of emergency on Saturday in preparation for the potential arrival of Tropical Storm Elsa.
The storm, which was downgraded from a Category 1 Hurricane on Saturday and last checked in with maximum sustained winds of 65 miles per hour, is set to track over Jamaica and eastern Cuba on Sunday morning before heading near Cuba through Early Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.
Elsa should move near the Florida Keys by late Monday and near the west coast of the state by Tuesday.
DeSantis issued the state of emergency for 15 counties including: Charlotte, Citrus, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Hernando, Hillsborough, Lee, Levy, Manatee, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Pasco, Pinellas and Sarasota counties.
“While we continue to provide resources to support the response at Surfside, impacts from Elsa will begin affecting the Florida Keys and portions of southern Florida as early as Monday,” DeSantis said. “All Floridians in the potential path of this storm need to prepare for the risk of isolated tornadoes, storm surge, heavy rainfall and flash flooding.”
Two people died during the storm in the Dominican Republic on Saturday, according to the Associated Press. Another person died in St. Lucia, the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency reported.
Elsa formed on July 1 and is the earliest fifth named storm of any Atlantic hurricane season on record, according to the Weather Channel, which noted the 2021 season is already off to a faster start than the 2020 season. The storm beat out the previous record, which was set just last year by Edouard on July 5, 2020.
That’s also over six weeks earlier than the average date of the fifth storm – August 18 – from 1991 through 2020. In eight of those 30 years from 1991 through 2020, the fifth storm didn’t arrive until September.
Elsa became the season’s first hurricane on July 2 near Barbados in the Windward Islands — 23 days earlier than 2020’s first hurricane, which was Hanna in the Gulf of Mexico.
According to the Weather Channel:
Typically in June or early July, very little development occurs east of the Windward Islands due to the early-season progression of dry, dusty air from the Sahara Desert – such as what happened late last June – and stronger wind shear over the Caribbean Sea.
But Elsa developed in the “main development region” east of the Windward Islands and became a hurricane, no less.
In 2020, there were 30 named storms with 14 of those becoming hurricanes — just shy of the seasonal record. While Elsa’s origins suggest an active season, it’s too early to tell if there will be as many or more storms than last year, according to to the NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division.
“If anything, this early activity is a reminder that the time to prepare for another hurricane season is now,” the Weather Channel reported.
For information about how to prepare for a severe storm or hurricane, click here.