WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — All of South Florida and the Treasure Coast remain in Tropical Storm Elsa's cone of uncertainty on Thursday evening, and we could feel effects from the system early next week.
According to the 11 p.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Elsa maximum sustained winds have increased to near 50 mph with higher gusts. Some additional strengthening is forecast over the next 12 to 24 hours.
Elsa is moving quickly west-northwestward towards the Lesser Antilles.
A Tropical Storm Watch has been issued for the southern coast of the Dominican Republic from the Haiti/Dominican Republic border eastward to Punta Palenque.
A Tropical Storm Warning has been issued for Barbados, Martinique, St. Lucie, St. Vincent, and the Grenadines.
Elsa is now the earliest fifth-named storm on record. The previous record-holder was Tropical Storm Edouard in 2020.
"Everybody in South Florida should be monitoring this very closely as we get into the holiday weekend," said WPTV First Alert Chief Meteorologist Steve Weagle.
Weagle said most computer models take the system over the Lesser Antilles by Friday morning, passing south of Hispanola by Saturday afternoon, moving over Cuba on Sunday, and then approaching the Florida Peninsula late Monday and early Tuesday.
If the same track continues, Elsa would arrive near South Florida as tropical storm with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph.
Weagle said the computer models are in very good agreement as the system approaches the Florida Peninsula. However, the European Model fizzles the storm out over the Dominican Republic, while most other tracks bring Elsa into the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
"It's one to watch the next few days," Weagle said. "If it does have an impact [on South Florida], winds would pick up Monday night. They would peak on Tuesday. And I would expect tropical storm conditions on the current track."
Weagle said, at this point, the chance of South Florida and the Treasure Coast feeling tropical storm force winds over 39 mph is low at less than 10%.
The storm is moving very quickly, west-northwest at 29 mph. Weagle said that fast forward speed may actually lessen the impacts of Elsa on the islands and, potentially, South Florida.
"That's really the only thing that's hindering it at this point," Weagle said.
A Tropical Storm Warning is now in effect for Barbados, Martinique, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for Grenada and its dependencies, as well as the southern and western coasts of Haiti from the southern border of the Dominican Republic to Le Mole le St. Nicholas.
State and county emergency officials said they're monitoring Tropical Storm Elsa and how it may impact the painstaking search-and-rescue mission at a collapsed condominium building in Surfside.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday that Florida's Division of Emergency Management has contingency plans in place for potential storm-related impacts, including identifying alternate work facilities.
"It's gonna continue to quickly move through the Caribbean through the weekend, eventually turning northwestern near South Florida by Monday," DeSantis said. "We are not expecting any impacts through Saturday."
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