Updated Jul 7, 2021 - Science

Tornado watch issued as Elsa closes in on Florida

Scallopers and fishers head out of Steinhatchee in advance of the arrival of Tropical Storm Elsa on July 6,

Scallopers head out of Steinhatchee, Florida, in advance of the arrival of Tropical Storm Elsa on Tuesday. The fishing community has emptied after a busy tourism weekend. Photo: Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images

Heavy rains and gusty winds were spreading inland across southwest and west-central Florida as Elsa weakened to a still-dangerous tropical storm early Wenesday, per the National Hurricane Center.

State of play: Elsa was 60 miles west of Tampa, Florida, packing maximum sustained winds of 70 mph, the National Hurricane Center said in its 2a.m. ET advisory. A tornado watch was issued for several areas of the state.

A National Weather Service Miami map depicting Tropical Storm Elsa's path on Wednesday morning
Image: NWS Miami/Twitter
  • The storm is expected to make landfall along the north Florida Gulf coast by late Wednesday morning before moving across the southeastern U.S. through Thursday.

Of note: A storm surge warning was in effect along Florida's west coast, north of Steinhatchee River to Ochlockonee River, along with the mouth of St. Marys River, Georgia to Little River Inlet, South Carolina.

  • Despite Elsa's downgrade, a hurricane warning was still in effect for Egmont Key to the Steinhatchee River, Florida.
  • Tropical-storm-force winds extended outward up to 80 miles from the center. "Albert Whitted Airport in St. Petersburg, Florida, recently reported a wind gust of 52 mph," the NHC noted in its 2a.m. advisory.

What to watch: "Mid to late week, heavy rainfall across coastal Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and southeastern Virginia" may result in flooding, the NHC said.

The big picture: Elsa first strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane last Friday before weakening into a tropical storm Saturday.

  • It killed two people in the Dominican Republic and another person in St. Lucia on Saturday before dumping heavy rains across Cuba Monday and regaining hurricane strength on Tuesday evening as it neared Florida's west coast.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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