Updated Jul 6, 2021 - Science

Tropical Storm Elsa bears down on Florida after lashing Cuba

Photographers take pictures of the sunset before the passage of Tropical Storm Elsa in Havana, on July 5

The scene in Havana before the passage of Tropical Storm Elsa on Monday. Heavy rains continued to fall across Cuba on Tuesday morning. Photo: Yamil Lage/AFP via Getty Images

Conditions were deteriorating across the Florida Keys as Tropical Storm Elsa moved over the Florida Straits early Tuesday after unleashing heavy rains on Cuba, per the National Hurricane Center.

Details: The storm was packing maximum sustained winds of 60 mph 60 miles south-southwest of Key West at 2a.m. on Tuesday, according to the NHC.

What to watch: Elsa was forecast to pass near the Florida Keys later Tuesday morning and move "near or over" portions of the state's west coast of Florida later in the day and continuing into Wednesday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

  • Storm surge and tropical storm warnings were in effect for Florida's west coast. The Florida Keys and parts of Cuba were under a tropical storm warning.
  • A storm surge watch was in effect west of the Aucilla River to the Ochlockonee River and there was a tropical storm watch for the region west of the Ochlockonee River to Indian Pass, Fla.

Of note: The Florida Keys into southwest and western portions of the Florida Peninsula could see maximum rain totals of up to 8 inches through Wednesday, "which may result in considerable flash and urban flooding, along with minor to isolated moderate river flooding," the NHC said.

  • Across the rest of Florida into southeast Georgia and the Low Country of South Carolina 2 to 4 inches could fall, with localized maximum totals of up to 6 inches through Wednesday night. This may result in isolated flash, urban and minor river flooding.

State of play: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) expanded a state of emergency Monday to include 15 more counties forecast to be affected by the storm.

  • He originally issued the executive order on Saturday to cover 15 counties, including Miami-Dade — where Surfside crews were battling strong winds overnight to continue searching for victims through the rubble of a collapsed condo ahead of the storm's expected arrival.
  • Officials in Cuba evacuated some 180,000 residents before the storm made landfall on Monday near Cuba's remote Cienega de Zapata park. Heavy rains were still falling across Cuba on Tuesday — triggering flash flooding and mudslide warnings.

The big picture: Elsa strengthened to a Category 1 hurricane on Friday before weakening into a tropical storm Saturday. The powerful storm has killed at least three people as it swept across the Caribbean.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with the latest developments of the storm.

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