- Elsa was the first hurricane of the season last week.
- Elsa’s trail will go through northern Florida with heavy rains and winds.
- The storm will continue to Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia later this week.
After a storm on the west coast of Florida, Tropical Storm Elsa hit land at around 11 a.m. on Wednesday morning in sparsely populated Taylor County along the state’s northern Gulf Coast, the National Hurricane Center said.
Forecasters say Elsa’s route will lead inland through north Florida in heavy rain and winds and on to Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia before heading for the Atlantic Ocean by Friday.
Previously, the streets of Key West had turned into rushing rivers, and Tampa was hit by high winds and heavy rains as the storm, which eased slightly but was still strong, rolled along Florida’s west coast.
Off the coast of Key West, the Coast Guard and a Good Samaritan boat rescued 13 people Tuesday who were part of a group of 22 who left Cuba on a boat that capsized in storm-churned waters. Nine people were still missing.
Elsa, downgraded from hurricane to tropical storm, had been moving almost parallel to the west coast of Florida for about a day. The storm, centered about 115 miles west-southwest of Jacksonville, was moving north at about 23 km / h. It carried sustained winds of up to 65 miles per hour.
Governor Ron DeSantis said a “wobble” in the west as the storm approached Tampa helped keep the damage to a minimum. So far, no deaths or serious injuries have been reported, he said.
“All in all, where we looked at each other 72 hours ago, I think the impact was less than we thought was reasonable,” said DeSantis. “We are lucky.”
DeSantis said there were up to 26,000 unpowered customers in the Tampa Bay area, most of them in Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Polk Counties.
The tropical storm warnings have been canceled for Cape Coral and Fort Myers. Much of central Florida remained under tornado surveillance as rainbows and severe thunderstorms related to Elsa swept the state. Some tornadoes remain possible across west-central to north Florida until this afternoon.
Tampa International Airport officials shut down late Tuesday, forcing about 200 flights to be canceled, but resumed them at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday after checking for storm damage. Elsa experienced gusts of up to 41 miles per hour overnight.
“The airport did not suffer any damage from the storm,” said a statement from the airport. “The streets of TPA are clear and the garages and rental car center are open.”
Before: Elsa regains hurricane status, roars closer to Florida’s west coast
The storm made it difficult to find potential survivors and victims when a building collapsed in the Miami area on June 24. Despite this challenge, the crews continued their search in the rubble of the Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida. The death toll from this tragedy rose to 46 on Wednesday.
The Elsa storm should move across the U.S. southeast and mid-Atlantic by Thursday, said Jack Beven, a senior hurricane specialist at NOAA’s National Hurricane Center in Miami.
In Georgia, a tropical storm warning was posted along the Braunschweig stretch of coast. The Hurricane Center said sustained winds of up to 80 km / h are expected in parts of southeast Georgia.
“Right now, we basically have a cloudy, rainy, and windy day,” Alec Eaton, director of Glynn County’s emergency management agency, told the Brunswick News on Tuesday. “I am confident that we can sit down and let it go by without major impact. Hopefully. “
A tropical storm watch was on duty as far as Duck, North Carolina, to Chincoteague, Virginia, and Chesapeake Bay south of New Point Comfort.
Elsa became the first hurricane of the season to sweep the Caribbean last week, killing three people. It calmed down a bit to a tropical storm but gained hurricane status for a few hours on Tuesday before returning to a tropical storm.
Spaghetti Models: Follow Elsa Here
Featuring: Diane Pantaleo and Cheryl McCloud, USA TODAY Network; The Associated Press