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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.

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.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Oct 5, 2021 - Science

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The winds of one of the most recognizable storms in the solar system — Jupiter's Great Red Spot — are speeding up.

Why it matters: This weather report for another world is possible because the Hubble Space Telescope has been keeping a close eye on the storm for more than 10 years.

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Driving the news: Roughly 2,000-3,000 people had joined a sit-in in Khartoum as of this afternoon, per Reuters, after protesters massed over the weekend to call on the military to bring down the government. The protests came just four weeks after a failed military coup.

Trump sues National Archives, Jan. 6 committee to block records request

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to block the National Archives from releasing White House records to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, citing executive privilege.

Why it matters: It's the latest escalation in Trump's campaign to disrupt the committee's sweeping probe into the circumstances surrounding Jan. 6, including his actions and communications leading up to the Capitol attack.