As Tropical Storm Elsa makes landfall on the Florida coast on Wednesday morning, millions of people will be exposed to life-threatening storm surges, strong winds, isolated tornadoes, and heavy rains that may cause flooding.
Elsa is churning off Florida’s west coast, with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph, as it heads north toward Cedar Key in the Big Bend region, where it is anticipated to make landfall Wednesday morning.
Early Wednesday morning, the hurricane was west of Tampa, and locals were advised to remain indoors.
According to the National Hurricane Center, bands of heavy rain and high gusts are still moving inland over southwest and west-central Florida. According to a tweet from the National Weather Service’s Tampa Bay office, a tornado warning has been issued for portions of Florida until 8 a.m.
Hurricane warnings are still in effect for more than four million people in Florida, despite the fact that the system fell to a tropical storm early Wednesday after becoming a Category 1 hurricane Tuesday. In three states, a tropical storm warning has been issued for more than 12 million people.
As local, state, and utility resources continue to prepare for the approaching storm, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis extended his state of emergency proclamation to include a total of 33 counties on Tuesday.
According to a press statement from the Florida National Guard, 60 guardsmen have been mobilized to work at the State Emergency Operations Center and Logistics Readiness Center. It’s ready to call in reinforcements if necessary.
“We are well-equipped with assets such as high-wheeled vehicles, helicopters, boats, and generators, and are prepared for missions such as humanitarian assistance, security operations, search and rescue, aviation, and more,” the guard said in a statement.
As the hurricane approaches, authorities in Tampa have advised people to avoid driving.
Counties and utilities are preparing before the storm.
The mayor of Tampa and the city’s emergency coordinator both used social media on Tuesday to urge people to stay at home and prepare.
In a video shared to Twitter, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor stated, “We are prepared here in the city of Tampa, but we need you to do your bit as well.” “Don’t go outdoors tonight,” says the narrator. Do not go outside unless absolutely necessary. “Stay put.”
“We want everyone in Tampa to be safe, so we’ll be watching the storm all night so you don’t have to,” she said.
Prior to the predicted impact, Tampa Emergency Coordinator John Antapasis warned it was time for citizens to go to safety.
He replied, “Now is the time to get back home, get off the streets, and remain safe for the rest of evening.” “You should be finishing your storm plans and making sure you’re in a secure spot while… Elsa makes her way through our neighborhood.”
People who need to be on the road, according to Antapasis, should examine the city’s flood map.
During a news conference on Tuesday, Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes also advised residents to prepare for the storm.
“Please complete your plans, protect your houses, and prepare to bunker down and weather this storm,” Hopes said.
At least five counties opened shelters on Tuesday, while two counties issued voluntary evacuation orders.
According to its website, Duke Energy, which serves 1.8 million customers in Florida, is prepared for storm-related disruptions.
3,000 utility “crew men, contractors, tree specialists, and other employees” have been staged from Pinellas County to north Florida, according to a news release issued Tuesday.
According to the press statement, more line workers and support staff have been brought in from the Carolinas, Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio.
In preparation of the hurricane, the University of Florida in Gainesville has postponed classes for Wednesday.
Tropical storm warnings and declarations of emergency have been extended.
Tropical storm warnings have been issued in Georgia and the Carolinas ahead of Elsa’s arrival in Florida.
The warnings go northward from the Altamaha Sound, just north of Brunswick, Georgia, to the Little River Inlet, on the Carolinas’ state boundary.
A tropical storm watch has been issued for Duck, North Carolina, on the Outer Banks, north of the Little River Inlet. The Pamlico and Albemarle sounds in North Carolina’s lowlands are included in this watch.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp declared a State of Emergency on Tuesday in anticipation of Hurricane Elsa’s arrival.
“This storm system has the potential to cause significant damage to citizens in Georgia’s central, southern, and coastal regions, and due to the possibility of downed trees, power lines, and debris, Georgia’s network of roads may become impassable in the affected counties, isolating residents and people from essential public services,” Kemp said.
According to Kemp’s proclamation, a State of Emergency has been proclaimed in 91 of Georgia’s 159 counties. Unless the governor decides to extend it, the decree will expire at midnight on Wednesday.