WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Tropical Depression No. 5 formed late Wednesday, and the National Hurricane Center is forecasting it to become Tropical Storm Elsa by Thursday.
Potential Tropical Cyclone Five has been upgraded to a depression and is expected to become TS Elsa on Thursday. Important to note that the probability of seeing tropical storm force winds here is currently less than 10%. I’ve included some possible scenarios through the weekend. pic.twitter.com/XDkh4YE975— Steve Weagle (@SteveWeagleWPTV) July 1, 2021
WPTV First Alert chief meteorologist Steve Weagle said most computer models take the system over the Greater Antilles on Friday, Hispanola on Saturday and Cuba on Sunday and Monday, then toward the Florida Peninsula early next week.
"It's definitely one to watch," Weagle said. "It's very unusual this time of year to see something like this strengthen in this area. But that is the forecast."
Weagle said the probability of South Florida seeing tropical storm-force winds is currently less than 10%.
A Tropical Storm Watch is now in effect for St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Guadeloupe.
A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for Barbados, Martinique, and St. Lucia.
The 11 p.m. advisory shows the depression is moving toward the west near 23 mph. An even faster motion to the west-northwest is expected over the next 24 to 36 hours.
On the forecast track, the system will pass near or over portions of the Windward Islands or the southern Leeward Islands on Friday, move into the eastern Caribbean Sea late Friday and Friday night, and move near the southern coast of Hispaniola on Saturday.
The tropical depression brings sustained winds near 35 mph with higher gusts.
Weagle said there is some disagreement in the computer models, with some tracks showing the system fizzling out, while others bring a significant storm into the Gulf of Mexico or parts of South Florida.
"Wind shear will be very, very low," said WPTV First Alert Meteorologist Steve Villanueva. "So the conditions will become more and more favorable for this system to intensify."
South Florida could be dealing with some of the effects of the wave in about a week, including heavy rain and gusty winds.
State and local emergency officials said they're monitoring Potential Tropical Cyclone Five as the painstaking search-and-rescue mission continues at a collapsed condominium building in Surfside.
Kevin Guthrie, the director of Florida's Division of Emergency Management, said a federal urban search and rescue team will arrive in Surfside on Wednesday to assist with the ongoing efforts. That will free up local first responders in the event there's a tropical cyclone and any storm-related emergencies arise.
"This is contingency planning," Guthrie said. "My team is very aware of what's going on here, and we will be closely monitoring the tropics."
Guthrie added that if a tropical depression or storm develops, plans are in place to handle both situations simultaneously, including facility relocation and communications.
"We have done this before where we have responded to multiple emergencies in the state at the same time," Guthrie said.
Gov. Ron DeSantis added that emergency crews could be redirected in the event of severe weather.
"Suffice it to say, we take [storms] very seriously, and we'll take whatever steps are necessary to make sure that we would be able to respond," DeSantis said. "We hope it doesn't come to that, but 'tis the season, and you gotta be ready."
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A second area of disturbed weather that's east of the Lesser Antilles is expected to interact with some stronger wind shear by the end of the week.
Regardless, it could bring strong winds and heavy rain to parts of the Caribbean Sea by Thursday and Friday.