MIAMI – Tropical Storm Elsa made landfall on the southern coast of Cuba Monday afternoon, bringing flooding rains as it moved across the western part of the island nation.
By late evening, the storm had moved back over the ocean and gained some strength while continuing to pound Cuba with rain.
As of the 11 p.m. Monday National Hurricane Center advisory, Elsa was moving north-northwest at 12 mph with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph.
It was located about 20 miles north-northeast of Havana, Cuba and about 80 miles south-southwest of Key West.
While the storm system is now tracking more west, Local 10 News meteorologist Julie Durda said the worst of the weather is on the east side of the system.
“The outer bands (are) already starting to move in across parts of the Florida Straits in the Upper Keys this morning,” Durda said.
FEMA announced Monday that President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for Florida, which means that federal emergency aid is being made available to supplement state, local and tribal response efforts to the emergency conditions for areas potentially affected by Elsa.
Cuban officials, meanwhile, evacuated 180,000 people as a precaution against the possibility of heavy flooding from a storm that already battered several Caribbean islands, killing at least three people.
Elsa is forecast to cross over Cuba by Monday night and then head northwest near Florida, where a state of emergency has been declared in 15 counties, including in Monroe County and Miami-Dade County.
While Surfside is not in the cone of concern, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava ordered the remaining structure left behind of the Champlain Towers South condominium to be demolished overnight due to safety concerns that would only be exasperated by gusty winds.
Forecasters say the storm will weaken some while crossing over Cuba, but is likely to strengthen slightly as it moves toward Florida.
Elsa was the Atlantic season’s first hurricane before weakening into a tropical storm.
Tropical Storm Warnings are in effect for the following areas:
· The Cuban provinces of Mayabeque, Matanzas and Havana
· The Florida Keys from Craig Key westward to the Dry Tortugas
· West coast of Florida from Flamingo northward to Ochlockonee River
A Storm Surge Watch is in effect for the west coast of Florida from Bonita Beach to the Aucilla River, including Tampa Bay
A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for the following areas:
· West of the Ochlockonee River to Indian Pass, Florida