Tropical Storm Elsa forms in the Atlantic

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Tropical Storm Elsa remains several days from potentially nearing Florida — possibly round the site of the deadly condo collapse — because the third storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season threaten land within the US. “It is just too soon to work out what, if any, impacts could occur there next week given the uncertainty within the long-range forecast,” the National Hurricane Center said. Elsa strengthened Thursday morning into a tropical storm with winds of 45 mph. At 8 p.m. ET, it had been 345 miles east-southeast of Barbados and 460 miles east-southeast of St. Vincent. The fast-moving storm is racing west at 28 mph and a few strengthening is forecast during the subsequent 48 hours, the middle said.

A tropical storm warning is in effect for Barbados and Martinique, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and therefore the Grenadines. A tropical storm watch is in effect for Jamaica, Grenada, and its dependencies, and for the southern and western coasts of Haiti from the southern border of the Dominican Republic to Le Mole le St. Nicholas. The watch has been extended to hide the southern coast of the Dominican Republic from the Haitian border eastward to Punta Palenque. Elsa, which is already spawning memes for the name it shares with Disney’s “Frozen” princess, will pass Friday near or over portions of the Windward Islands, bringing gusty winds and up to 10 inches of rain. it’ll then head into the eastern Caribbean and move Saturday near the southern coast of Hispaniola. By early Sunday, Elsa is forecast to be near portions of eastern Cuba.

While the storm will bring tropical-storm-force winds and heavy rain to the islands Friday, its fast movement could limit the flood potential. Those near the recently erupted La Soufriere volcano in St. Vincent and therefore the Grenadines have a further concern to stress about — heavy rain causing lahars. “As the volcano erupted, it deposited vast amounts of ash on the island, much of it at higher elevations. Heavy rain will mix with the ash, creating a slurry which will cause significant mudslide-like damage — called a lahar,” said CNN meteorologist Chad Myers. Puerto Rico is additionally expecting rainfall, with localized amounts of up to five inches Friday into Saturday.

After that, the hurricane center has low confidence within the forecast track. Some weather models predict Elsa turns and stays east of Florida, while others take it into the Gulf of Mexico, leaving the whole Florida Peninsula within the cone of error. The key and portions of the southern Florida Peninsula early next week face a risk of storm surge, wind, and heavy rainfall, the hurricane center warns. How strong Elsa is going to be next week is additionally highly uncertain thanks to the likelihood of land interaction and disagreements among the weather models. The hurricane center forecast now’s on the low end for intensity, keeping Elsa as a tropical storm when it nears the Florida Peninsula. Elsa isn’t expected to impact search and rescue efforts this weekend at the location of the condo collapse in Surfside, Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday.

“We aren’t expecting any impacts through Saturday,” he said. “But obviously, our meteorological team is actively monitoring the storm and can still provide any updates,” he said, adding the state Department of Emergency Management is functioning on contingency plans just in case of storm effects. State officials expect Elsa to show northwest near South Florida by Monday, he said. The Florida State Response Team has coordinated 500 on-scene local and state responders, DeSantis added. Search and rescue work on the location was temporarily halted Thursday due to structural concerns about the standing structure, the Miami-Dade County mayor said. It resumed within the evening.

The Miami-Dade Office of Emergency Management is monitoring the storm, division Director Charles Cyrille said during a news briefing Thursday night. Cyrille said the county faces the danger of heavy rainfall and powerful winds from Elsa from Sunday night into Monday morning. While officials don’t think the county is in immediate danger, they need to be developed emergency plans, he said. What makes Elsa unique is when and where its activity is developing. As the calendar turned from June to July, climatology indicates a big increase in tropical formation across the Atlantic Ocean’s Main Development Region (MDR).

It is, however, unusual to ascertain activity within this region this early within the hurricane season. The MDR is roughly encompassed by the waters off West Africa through the Caribbean to Central America. It historically experiences an uptick in tropical activity between July and September due to warmer ocean waters, relaxing vertical wind shear, and weaker trade winds. These are all contributing factors to what the National Hurricane Center believes is going to be another above-average hurricane season. albeit the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season has amassed four named storms, they need been short-lived and comparatively weak.

One way meteorologists quantify how active or inactive a hurricane season has been being by tracking the Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE). ACE may be a parameter that takes the general seasonal activity (to date) and combines “intensity and duration of Atlantic named storms and hurricanes,” consistent with the Climate Prediction Center. So far this season, the ACE index stands at 3.3, with a mere 5.25 named storm days. If Elsa progresses as predicted, it’ll begin a gentle march toward the forecast above-average season.

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