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Elsa becomes Category 1 hurricane, lashes Florida with heavy winds and rain

Follow Wednesday's Elsa live updates

Elsa is lashing areas in Florida as it turned back into a hurricane Tuesday night. It's unleashing heavy winds and dumping as much as 15 inches of rainfall. With maximized sustained winds of 75 mph, the Category 1 storm is expected to make landfall along the north Florida Gulf Coast by late Wednesday morning before moving across the Southeast.

As of 8 p.m. ET, Elsa was about 100 miles south-southwest of Tampa, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm is moving northward at about 10 mph with wind speed potentially strengthening overnight.

Most of southern Florida is under a tornado watch, several counties have issued emergency evacuation orders and thousands of residents have experienced power outages. Officials are worried high winds will pull up trees and take down power lines.

Governor Ron DeSantis said his biggest fear is flooding from a dangerous storm surge. He advises residents turn on weather alerts, prepare food and water for seven days and to follow local evacuation orders as the first hurricane of the Atlantic season approaches his state.


Elsa regains hurricane status Tuesday night

Elsa has turned back into a hurricane as it sits about 100 miles south-southwest of Tampa, Florida, the National Hurricane Center said Tuesday evening.

The storm has maximum sustained winds of 75 mph, making it a Category 1 hurricane.

Elsa was originally declared the first hurricane of the Atlantic season, but weakened on Saturday to a tropical storm.

By Tori B. Powell

Tracking Elsa's storm path

Elsa gains strength ahead of making landfall 01:20

CBS New York chief weathercaster Lonnie Guinn provides updates on Elsa and its expected path as it nears Florida.


Florida governor adds more counties to emergency order

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis expanded his state of emergency order to additional counties, making his declaration effective now in 33 total counties, including Baker, Bradford, Clay, Duval, Nassau, Putnam and Union County. 

"If you look at how lopsided this storm is, anything to the east of the eye will have some storm impacts for sure," DeSantis said. 

DeSantis said supplies like food, water and generators have been prepared for distribution across the state. Elsa is expected to strengthen into a hurricane before making landfall early Wednesday. 

More than 7,000 workers are prepared to respond to the thousands of Florida residents who have experienced power outages, DeSantis said. He advised those who may experience outages and who use a generator to not allow exhaust inside their homes or garages due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. 

He recommended that residents refrain from driving Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. "The roads will be dangerous as this storm passes through," DeSantis said. "This is not a time to joyride. You do have hazardous conditions out there."

"We don't anticipate major changes to the track at this point but if there is, obviously, we will be getting those from the National Hurricane Center and we'll be passing along that accordingly," he said. 

By Tori B. Powell

Warnings and watches as of 8 p.m. ET

The National Hurricane Center says the following warnings and watches are in effect as of Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET:

A Storm Surge Warning is in effect for:

  • West coast of Florida from Bonita Beach to the Aucilla River, including Tampa BayWest coast of Florida from Bonita Beach to the Aucilla River, including Tampa Bay

A Storm Surge Watch is in effect for: 

  • West of the Aucilla River to the Ochlockonee River, FloridaWest of the Aucilla River to the Ochlockonee River, Florida

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for:

  • The Dry Tortugas
  • West coast of Florida from Flamingo to south of Egmont Key
  • West coast of Florida north of Steinhatchee River to Ochlockonee River
  • Coast of Georgia from the Mouth of the St. Marys River to Altamaha Sound

A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for:

  • North of Altamaha Sound, Georgia, to South Santee River, South Carolina

A Hurricane Warning is in effect for: 

  • Egmont Key to the Steinhatchee River, Florida

The tropical storm warnings for the Lower Florida Keys from Key West to the Seven Mile Bridge have been discontinued.

By Tori B. Powell

Over 9,000 Florida residents without power

By Tuesday afternoon, more than 9,400 Florida residents were without power, according to

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis advised residents to turn on weather alerts, prepare food and water for seven days, and to follow local evacuation orders as Tropical Storm Elsa approaches his state. 

By Tori B. Powell

Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport ceases operations early

Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport will cease operations at 6:30 p.m. local time on Tuesday amid Tropical Storm Elsa. Operations will resume at 6 a.m. on Wednesday after assessing the airport for storm damage, the airport stated in a press release

Travelers are advised to check with their airlines for information on flight schedules. 

By Tori B. Powell

Florida county issues voluntary evacuation order

A voluntary evacuation order for affected areas in Florida's Citrus County will go into effect at 6 p.m. local time Tuesday until further notice, officials said Tuesday. The county has been under a local state of emergency due to Tropical Storm Elsa since 7 a.m. local time Tuesday. 

"This event has the capacity to pose a significant, imminent, and dangerous threat to the health, safety, and welfare of the inhabitants of Citrus County, Florida, visitors and tourists," the county's emergency order proclamation stated.

Hernando County has also issued a voluntary evacuation for mobile homes and flood-prone areas. Emergency shelters for the storm have been provided in counties including Hernando, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee and Citrus. 

By Tori B. Powell

Hurricane warning issued as Elsa nears hurricane strength

The west coast of Florida from Egmont Key to the Steinhatchee River is under a hurricane warning as of 2 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday, according to the National Hurricane Center. Hurricane conditions are expected to affect warning areas by this evening. 

"Maximum sustained winds have increased to near 70 mph (110 km/h) with higher gusts, and Elsa is forecast to become a hurricane before making landfall," the center says in its 2 p.m. advisory. 

Tropical storm conditions are expected to affect the Florida Big Bend region, northward Florida and west-central areas by Tuesday night through early Wednesday. The storm surge and tide combination is forecast to create flooding in areas that are normally dry near the coast. 

Three to five inches of rain, with a maximum possibility of 8 inches, are expected across the Florida Keys into southwest and western portions of the Florida Peninsula through Wednesday, according to the National Hurricane Center. Across the rest of Florida, 2 to 4 inches of rain are expected, posing flooding risks.

Tornado threats are possible throughout the Florida Peninsula, North Florida, southeast Georgia and in South Carolina. 

"Life-threatening" surf and rip current conditions are expected in the Florida Keys from swells that are forecasted to spread northward across portions of the area. 

"Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion," the National Hurricane Center says. 

By Tori B. Powell

Tornado Watch issued for parts of Florida

As CBS Tampa affiliate WTSP reports, a tornado watch has been issued for the following Florida counties: Broward, Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Okeechobee, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota and St. Lucie.

The watch is in effect until 11 p.m. on Tuesday.


Tampa's Emergency Hotline open until 8 p.m.

Tampa's Emergency Hotline will be open until 8pm on Tuesday to help residents prepare for Elsa. 

"Call 1-833-TPA-INFO for answers to questions in English & Spanish for info: sandbag distribution, shelter locations, enrolling in @AlertTampa, & more," the City of Tampa tweeted. 

The storm is expected to impact the Tampa Bay area from Tuesday evening into Wednesday, according to CBS affiliate WTSP.


Officials urge residents to prepare

Florida officials are urging people in the state to prepare for Elsa's impacts. 

"Please plan and prepare for Tropical Storm #Elsa and track her path," the Florida department of highway safety tweeted. "Use to learn about evacuation routes and find disaster supply checklists. Follow us, @FLSERT & @MyFDOT for info on road closures and other pertinent travel info designed to keep you safe."


Teams in Surfside continue work despite storm

Surfside, Florida, is feeling the impacts of Tropical Storm Elsa. Overnight, search teams working in the aftermath of the condo building collapse pressed on in extremely adverse and challenging conditions, according to Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.

They worked through wind and rain, and paused only briefly for lightning, which is legally required, she said. 

"We do continue to expect occasional gusts and strong showers today and we are are closely monitoring the weather," she said.

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin

Hurricane watches posted for parts of Florida west coast

Hurricane watches have been posted for parts of the west coast of Florida. The most recent July hurricane landfall in Florida was Dennis in 2005, according to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach.

Klotzbach notes the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season has already generated 9 ACE (Accumulated Cyclone Energy) — a metric accounting for frequency, intensity and duration of storms. This is 4th most ACE by Atlantic hurricane season through July 5 in the past 60 years.

By Stephen Smith

Tampa International Airport suspending operations

Tampa International Airport says it is suspending commercial operations on Tuesday starting at 5 p.m. Air cargo operations will be halted by 10 p.m.

Operations are expected to resume at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, the airport says

"All travelers should check with their airlines for the most up-to-date flight schedules over the next two to three days," it says. "As a reminder, the Airport is not an emergency shelter for people or vehicles, as it is not designed or equipped with the supplies to handle an influx of evacuees."

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin

"Don't focus on the cone," governor says

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is urging people in the central and northern parts of the state, along with much of the west coast, to prepare for heavy rain, gusty wind and storm surge. 

"It's important that Floridians don't focus on the cone," he said at a Tuesday briefing. "Impacts are expected well outside that area. And if you look at how the storm is, it's incredibly lopsided to the east. So most of the rainfall is going to be east of the center of the storm."

He said tropical storm warnings are in effect in 22 counties along the state's west coast, and a hurricane watch is in effect for the Florida coast stretching from Pinellas County to Dixie County. A storm surge warning is in effect for 12 counties between Taylor and Lee on the Gulf Coast. 

"Much of north and central Florida have experienced above normal rainfall over the past two weeks, which will increase the likelihood of flash flooding conditions with the anticipated heavy rain," said DeSantis.

He urged coastal residents to prepare now.

"Be prepared to be without power for a few days and having enough food and water for each person in their family, including for your pets," DeSantis said. "It's important that Floridians have weather alerts turned on especially as we see the most impacts will occur overnight with this storm."

"Please heed all warnings from local officials," he said. "If they asked you to evacuate your area, it's for your own safety."


Elsa complicates search efforts in Surfside

Tropical Storm Elsa is complicating search efforts in Surfside nearly two weeks after a condo building in the town collapsed. Search crews at the Champlain Towers South collapse site worked through the night while dealing with the rain bands and gusty wind from the storm. 

At least 80 search and rescue team members are working on the pile at any given time, rotating in 12-hour shifts.

On Tuesday morning, weather concerns remained.

When there is thunder and lightning, the search is temporarily paused.

"They are continuing their mission of the search of the collapsed area," said Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, CBS Miami reports. "They've worked under this great difficulty, and they have pulled shifts to rotate because that's how much they want to be out there searching. The first responders are the most frustrated by any delays we have. They live to save lives."


Tropical Storm Elsa soaks the Florida Keys

Feeder bands from Tropical Storm Elsa was soaking the Florida Keys on Tuesday morning. 

Bands of wind and rain began making their way to Key West on Monday, as people scrambled to get their last-minute preps done, CBS Miami reports.

Ralph Henriquez at Waterview Estate Mobile Home Park on Stock Island was getting the place ready for anything that may blow in.

"In between here, we tied up the chairs and bicycles," he said. "Just trying to keep everything really safe for us, so we don't have blowing debris."

With the suggestion that people in mobile homes find somewhere to stay for the storm, some of the residents have already left.

"It's kind of been 50-50. Some of our residents are going to go and stay with family that live here in RVs or mobile home. There are others who were here for Irma. This is nothing compared to that, thank God," said Henriquez.

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