SURFSIDE, Fla. — Top Florida officials are preparing a potential state of emergency declaration as Hurricane Elsa barrels ahead in the Caribbean and causes concern and uncertainty for the tireless search-and-rescue operations at a collapsed Surfside condominium building, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday.
Elsa, which is packing maximum sustained winds of 85 mph, could bring tropical storm conditions to South Florida late Monday and early Tuesday, according to forecasters.
"We don't know exactly the track it's gonna take," DeSantis said. "We're actively monitoring the situation."
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The governor has ordered Florida's Division of Emergency Management to start preparing a potential state of emergency, which will assist the state's Emergency Response Team with storm preparations.
"It is possible that [Surfside] area could see tropical storm force winds," DeSantis said. "Our Department of Emergency Management is assuming that that will happen and making the necessary preparations to be able to protect a lot of the equipment. You could potentially have an event with the building as well."
WPTV First Alert Chief Meteorologist Steve Weagle said Elsa is expected to move near Hispanola on Saturday and over Cuba by Sunday. It will then approach the Florida Peninsula on Monday.
"The tropical storm force winds could begin as early as Sunday here in South Florida," said Robert Molleda with the National Weather Service. "Most likely, based on the official forecast, it would be Monday and possibly even into Tuesday. So we do have this weekend to prepare for the possibility of tropical storm conditions."
Molleda added there's a lot of uncertainty with the forecast, and any interaction with Hispanola and Cuba could effect Elsa's intensity and track as it approaches Florida.
In anticipation of Hurricane Elsa's potential impacts on our area, emergency officials are advising residents to get their hurricane kits ready with at least three days of food, water, medication, and other essential supplies for each person in your household.
"Hurricane season is very much upon us, and it's important to make sure that you have a plan in place and that you take key precautions at home," Levine Cava said. "Everyone must prepare now for the eventuality of a storm."
Officials said Friday 20 people are dead and another 128 are missing following the June 24 collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium building. One of the latest victims is the 7-year-old daughter of a Miami firefighter.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky called Elsa "another significant obstacle on the horizon," and said more engineers have been brought in to assess the building's stability ahead of the hurricane's potential impacts.
"This is so challenging. So many different obstacles. One after the other," Cominsky said.
The fire chief added that gusty winds could prove to be the most dangerous factor for first responders at the search-and-rescue site.
"For the wind storms, we'll monitor and we'll have to see the direction of the storm and how close it gets. And then we'll have to make the necessary precautions and modifications to our plan," Cominsky said.