WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Hurricane Elsa is already a record-breaking and unusual system, and could signal a very busy hurricane season to come, forecasters say.
Elsa, which formed Thursday morning and is packing maximum sustained winds of 85 mph, is the earliest fifth-named storm on record. The previous record holder was Tropical Storm Edouard, which formed on July 6, 2020.
"It's very unusual to have a fifth-named storm this early in the season," said WPTV First Alert Meteorologist Kate Wentzel. "This typically does indicate a busy season. But we say typically because not always."
KATE WENTZEL EXPLAINS ELSA:
Wentzel said Elsa formed two months earlier than the average period to have a fifth-named storm.
Most computer models take the system near 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 65 mph.
However, Wentzel said the storm's rapid movement could actually help matters.
"Usually when storms move that fast, it's harder for them to gain a lot of strength," Wentzel said. "So the fast movement could be a good thing."
Wentzel said the computer models are split once Elsa begins to approach the Florida Peninsula. Some tracks, including the European Model, take the system on an eastward path toward the Bahamas. Other models take Elsa into the Gulf of Mexico.
"A lot of scenarios can still play out, and it depends a lot on that big area of high pressure," Wentzel said. "The models still are struggling once [Elsa] gets past the Caribbean."
Regardless, forecasters said South Florida and the Treasure Coast will likely experience heavy rain and gusty winds during the early part of next week because of Elsa.