Hurricane Elsa put on a burst of strength early Friday as it was passing over the southeastern Caribbean islands. It’s now speeding through the eastern Caribbean Sea toward the southern coast of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Its forward speed is adding to its top winds, which are estimated to be about 85 mph.
The strong high-pressure system sprawled across the Atlantic is driving Elsa to the west, but its effect will diminish through Saturday, so the storm’s top winds should begin to decrease as the system’s forward speed slows.
By late Saturday, the southern part of Haiti may come into play, and on Sunday the storm is forecast to interact with Haiti, Jamaica, and Cuba. As a result, the top winds should come down.
The computer forecast models came into much better agreement Friday afternoon on the forecast track. While Thursday they were spread from the central Gulf to east of the Bahamas, now they are focused on the official National Hurricane Center forecast as represented by the cone.
They also better agree that Elsa will be weakened by its interaction with the landmasses of the Caribbean islands, though the amount of weakening varies from one computer forecast to the other.
Quite often, computer forecast models come into better agreement when a storm becomes better organized, and that seems to be what happened Friday. However, we can’t be 100 percent sure of the cause and effect. That is why we still have to allow for the possibility that Elsa shoots the gap between Cuba and Jamaica, or some other factor changes the intensity of the storm when it reaches the vicinity of Florida.
Right now, the National Hurricane Center is forecasting a strong tropical storm near the west coast of Florida, but there is still a lot of play in that forecast. We are not expecting to see a strong hurricane near or over Florida at this time, however.
So the big question in the forecast is what’s going to happen Sunday – how will the land interaction go? Will friction with the terrain significantly weaken the circulation, or just wound it a bit?
We should start to feel the effects of the storm in South Florida late Monday into Tuesday as Elsa pulls off to the north. It’s too early to tell exactly what those effect will be, but we don’t expect a strong storm at this time.
Elsa will be moving right along, so any extra rain shouldn’t linger, unless we get unlucky and get stuck under a band. Heavy rain on top of all of the water that’s already fallen in the last few weeks raises the concern of flooding, of course.
Stay tuned for changes, as always. We still have a ways to go.