MIAMI – Tropical Storm Elsa strengthened to a hurricane Friday morning, making it the first hurricane of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, and South Florida remains in the cone of concern.
Still, the long-range forecast path remains uncertain. South Florida could feel its impact as early as Sunday night.
According to The National Hurricane Center, Elsa is currently moving west northwest at 29 mph with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph. Elsa is strengthening as it moves into the eastern Caribbean Sea.
As of the 2 p.m. advisory, it was located 95 miles west northwest of St. Vincent and is battering the eastern Caribbean, where officials closed schools, businesses and airports under the threat of flash flooding and landslides.
Heavy rains and winds also lashed Barbados on Friday as the Category 1 storm aimed for other nearby islands including St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which are still struggling to recover from recent volcanic eruptions.
Elsa is the earliest fifth-named storm on record, beating out last year’s Eduardo which formed on July 6, according to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach. He also noted that it’s the farthest east that a hurricane has formed this early in the tropical Atlantic since 1933. The 1991-2020 average date for the first Atlantic hurricane formation is mid-August.
The storm was forecast to bring 3 to 6 inches (7 to 15 centimeters) of rain with maximum totals of 10 inches (25 centimeters) inches on Friday across the Windward and southern Leeward Islands. The rain could unleash isolated flash flooding and mudslides.
A Hurricane Watch is in effect for Jamaica while a Hurricane Warning is in effect for the southern coast of the Dominican Republic from Punta Palenque to the border with Haiti and from the southern portion of Haiti from Port Au Prince to the southern border with the Dominican Republic.
A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for the following places: St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Martinique, Dominica, the coast of Haiti north of Port Au Prince, the south coast of the Dominican Republic east of Punta Palenque to Cabo Engano.
A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for Grenada and its dependencies, Saba and Sint Eustatius, the north coast of the Dominican Republic from Cabo Engano to Bahia de Manzanillo and for Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.
Check back to Local 10 News Weather Authority for updates as the forecast becomes more specific over the next few days.