Streets in Key West, Florida, flooded on July 6, as Tropical Storm Elsa brought heavy rain and strong wind to the area.
AccuWeather's live coverage of Elsa has concluded, but additional content and information on the storm can be found at AccuWeather.com and on the AccuWeather TV network. Scroll down to view photos and read storm reports from Elsa's approach to Florida.
Elsa worked its way through the Caribbean and into Florida, leaving a path of destruction in its wake and a few days worth of stress for its anticipation. With a name fit for the silver screen and a formation that rewrote the record books, Elsa was a storm that captured the country's attention throughout its journey. Here are some of the best visuals left behind.
Elsa still impacting Florida and Georgia, but AccuWeather meteorologists are keeping an eye on the storm's impacts for after it leaves the Southeast. Elsa is forecast by AccuWeather meteorologists to deliver impacts of varying intensity to parts of the mid-Atlantic and northeastern U.S. late this week. "Most of the Northeast coast will be spared from the storm's strongest winds and heavy rain," said AccuWeather Meteorologist Adam Sadvary. "However, rough surf and rip currents are expected from the mid-Atlantic to New England shores as Elsa progresses into the northern Atlantic."
The water level along the Gulf of Mexico at Cedar Key, Florida, reached 2.56 feet high around midday Wednesday, according to a water gauge operated by NOAA. This was slightly above the predicted level and enough to reach minor flood stage. Cedar Key is located just south of Taylor County, where Elsa made landfall around 11 a.m. EDT. Water levels should gradually recede as Elsa moves inland, although lingering rain could cause additional flood concerns.
Maximum sustained winds near the center of Elsa are dropping as it advances inland away from the warm water of the Gulf of Mexico that fueled the storm. As of 2 p.m. EDT, sustained winds were 50 mph, down from 65 mph just three hours prior. Winds this strong can still lead to power outages, with almost 26,000 outages reported across Florida, a majority of which occurred in the region near where Elsa made landfall, according to PowerOutage.us.
Tropical Storm Elsa seen moving inland on Wednesday, July 7, 2021. (Image/NOAA)
Areas in northeastern Florida and southeastern Georgia are under a tornado watch until 8 p.m. EDT Wednesday due to the risk of twisters as Elsa tracks inland. This includes nearly 2.5 million people, including those around Jacksonville, Florida, and Savannah, Georgia. These tornadoes could spin up quickly and be difficult to see due to tropical downpours.
The National Weather Service confirmed an EF0 tornado struck south of Lake City, Florida. The tornado, which was reported at 7:30 a.m., Wednesday toppled multiple trees, including one which landed on a house. Tropical systems often whip up tornadoes, with Wednesday's tornado threat centered in northern Florida and coastal Georgia and South Carolina.
The U.S. Coast Guard, along with a good Samaritan, rescued 13 people Tuesday after their boat capsized off of Key West as Tropical Storm Elsa approached, The Associated Press reported. The nine men and four women were taken aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Thetis Tuesday afternoon. Crew members said that the survivors left Cuba with 22 people onboard at about 8 p.m. Monday. They told the Coast Guard that seven men and two women were missing in the water. Tropical Storm Elsa crossed Cuba before entering the Gulf of Mexico Tuesday morning.
Elsa might be the headline story in the weather world right now, but strong thunderstorms are also a concern in the northeastern U.S. AccuWeather Chief Broadcast Meteorologist Bernie Rayno discusses the storm threat as well as where Elsa is headed after it leaves Florida on the latest episode of AccuWeather's Weather Insider podcast. Plus, he also highlights the latest dangerous heat wave building in the West. Give it a listen below.
Tropical Storm Elsa made landfall around 11 a.m. in Taylor County, Florida, north of the town of Steinhatchee and about 200 miles north of Tampa. The landfalling tropical storm was producing storm surge and damaging wind gusts along the northern Florida Gulf Coast, leading AccuWeather’s team of meteorologists to rate the storm a 1 on the AccuWeather RealImpact™ Scale for Hurricanes.
As Elsa moves inland, it will travel up the Southeast coast, bringing heavy rain, gusty winds and the threat of tornadoes to parts of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia before heading farther up the coast.
Elsa is seen on radar making landfall along Florida's northern Gulf Coast on July 7, 2021.
Ken Graham, the director of the National Hurricane Center, joined AccuWeather Chief Broadcast Meteorologist Bernie Rayno and Senior Television Meteorologist Michelle Rotella Wednesday morning on the AccuWeather Network to discuss the latest threats that Elsa poses to Florida and the Southeast as it moves inland later today. Watch the interview below.
Ken Graham from the National Hurricane Center talks with AccuWeather about the threat Elsa still poses as it makes landfall.
Tropical Storm Elsa continued to bring heavy rain and storm surge to the west coast of Florida overnight. At 9 a.m. Wednesday, the storm surge at Old Port Tampa from Elsa was 2.12 feet. More than 10 inches of rain has fallen on the towns of Port Charlotte (10.88 inches) and North Port (10.08 inches). Radar estimates indicate that some areas may have seen over a foot of rain, and it continues to fall in the same area Wednesday morning.
24-hour rainfall totals from Tropical Storm Elsa showed the heaviest rain in the Cape Coral area.
At 9 a.m. on July 7, the storm surge (purple line) at Old Port Tampa from Tropical Storm Elsa was 2.12 feet.
Farther north along the coast in the Big Bend area, the National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for Dixie and Taylor counties effective from 9:45 a.m. to 1:45 p.m., where 2.5 inches of rain had already fallen, and an additional 2 to 4 inches were expected.
It's been nearly a century since Tampa last sustained a direct hit by a hurricane, apart from a glancing blow four years ago, and the city has once again escaped with only minimal damage from a tropical system that could've been much worse. A hurricane warning was in effect for Tampa, but as Hurricane Elsa approached Tampa during the overnight hours, it weakened back to tropical storm force and stayed about 65 miles west of Tampa, according to the National Hurricane Center.Elsa was drifting about 115 miles northwest of Tampa per the latest NHC advisory at 8 a.m. EDT.
A jogger makes his way along Bayshore Blvd., in Tampa, Fla. as a wave breaks over a seawall, during the aftermath of Tropical Storm Elsa Wednesday, July 7, 2021. The Tampa Bay area was spared major damage as Elsa stayed off shore as it passed by. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said Wednesday morning that the city was "fortunate" to only have experienced minimal damage and flooding. Castor said there were downed trees and power lines around the city, and urged residents to not drive through standing water. "Use common sense, be safe. It is going to be a good day here in Tampa Bay," Castor said, expressing optimism that the city's weather-themed hockey team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, will claim the Stanley Cup tonight at home in front of a raucous crowd. As for how Tampa keeps avoiding direct strikes from hurricanes, some locals say the answer can be attributed to supernatural forces.
After assessing impacts from Tropical Storm Elsa, Tampa International Airport officials said operations resumed at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday. "The Airport did not sustain any damage from the storm. TPA’s roadways are clear, and the garages and rental car center are open," officials said in a statement. "While flights will resume later this morning, additional delays and cancellations throughout the day are possible as airlines ramp up operations." Wind gusts up to 41 mph were reported overnight at the airport. Operations were initially suspended at 5 p.m. Tuesday because of the expected impacts from the storm, which became a Category 1 hurricane Tuesday.
Tropical Storm Elsa was brewing about 70 miles west-no of Tampa, Florida this morning, according to the most recent update released by the National Hurricane Center. The system's maximum sustained winds have continued to weaken slightly, down to 65 mph at 5 a.m., local time, with storm-force winds extending outward up to 90 miles from the center.
"Whether Elsa hits as a low-end Category 1 hurricane or as a strong tropical storm, there may be little difference with impacts," AccuWeather Meteorologist Jake Sojda said.
For decades, the Tampa Bay area in Florida has been largely void of any direct landfalling hurricane strikes, and locals believe there could be a supernatural force pushing hurricanes away. In 2017, Hurricane Irma seemed to be headed for the St. Petersburg and Tampa area until it shifted and made landfall 146 miles south to Marco Island. The hurricane did brush one part of Tampa, but only once the storm weakened.
But long before Irma, the Tocobaga tribe who inhabited the Tampa Bay coastline died off due to war and disease brought by a Spanish explorer and his men before 1800. The burial mounds are still present, and some think that the mounds could be providing protection from hurricanes. "Do they want to protect their burial mounds," Rui Farias wondered in an interview with AccuWeather last year. "Or would they let a hurricane hit to get even with the Spanish and the white settlers that moved down from the north and took their land?"
Nearly a century ago, Tampa Bay suffered the most destructive hurricane to hit the area since 1848, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The hurricane came to be known as the "forgotten nightmare." Heavy wind and rain reduced many structures to rubble. The citrus industry was especially hard hit, as the storm whipped through entire crop fields. There were eight confirmed deaths, most of which were by drowning. The storm was difficult to predict given the lack of modern technology, like satellites or radars. Forecasters relied on past hurricane patterns, which suggested that the storm would move over the Gulf of Mexico and pass Tampa.
As of 2 A.M. EDT early Wednesday morning, Elsa's maximum sustained winds fell to 70 mph. This means Elsa has gone from a hurricane to a tropical storm. However, there is very little difference in impacts between a 70-mph tropical storm and a 75-mph hurricane. Therefore, residents should not expect any difference in effects, whether Elsa makes landfall as a strong tropical storm or as a minimal hurricane.
AccuWeather meteorologists predict that Elsa will make landfall on Wednesday morning near Cedar Key, Florida. Additionally, the storm is expected to retain its hurricane status, with sustained winds of at least 75 mph, as it approaches the coast. However, this does not mean that other areas along the coast are out of the woods. "Tampa’s going to get hit pretty hard,” AccuWeather Chief On-Air Meteorologist Bernie Rayno said. After making landfall, Elsa is projected to track northeastward, eventually swiping the Northeast.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency on Tuesday evening as Elsa barreled toward the coast of Florida, with southeast Georgia likely to receive a glancing blow. “This storm system has the potential to produce destructive impacts to citizens throughout the central, southern, and coastal regions of the State of Georgia,” the order stated. “Due to the possibility of downed trees, power lines, and debris, Georgia’s network of roads may be rendered impassable in the affected counties, isolating residences and persons from access to essential public services.” The move came as the storm was upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane for the second time.
Elsa shortly after being upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane on Tuesday evening. (AccuWeather)
Elsa regained hurricane status on Tuesday evening as the center of the storm swirled just off the western coast of Florida. Maximum sustained winds reached 75 mph, just 1 mph above the minimum wind speed for a tropical system to be considered a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Elsa is traveling north at 14 mph with the center of the storm located 100 miles south-southwest of Tampa. Elsa was briefly a hurricane on its journey across the Caribbean Sea before reaching Cuba, the first storm of the Atlantic hurricane season to reach hurricane status.
A total of 33 Florida counties are under a state of emergency as of Tuesday afternoon after Gov. Ron DeSantis amended the executive order in light of Elsa’s projected path. “That’s reflecting the path of the storm. All models agree: It’s going to ride the west coast of Florida. Then it’s going to bare northeast into the peninsula and likely go through northeast Florida,” DeSantis said during a press conference on Tuesday. The amendment added seven additional counties: Baker, Bradford, Clay, Duval, Nassau, Putnam and Union counties.
Strong winds from Elsa are expected to create power outages across Florida, and utility companies are already taking action. Florida Power & Light told AccuWeather Reporter Emmy Victor that the company has trucks on standby at the Sarasota County Fairgrounds. This is just a portion of the trucks prepared to act across the state. “We’ve got… more than 7,000 restoration personnel prepared to respond to these outages,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a press conference on Tuesday afternoon. As of late Tuesday afternoon, only around 5,000 electric customers across Florida were without power, according to PowerOutage.us.
Utility trucks gather in Florida ahead of Elsa's landfall. (AccuWeather/ Emmy Victor)
Ahead of the threat of Elsa, amusement and theme parks in Florida are adjusting their plans accordingly. Walt Disney World in Orlando has canceled Tuesday night’s performance of EPCOT Forever, and Happily Ever After at Magic Kingdom will be modified, according to Walt Disney World News Today. The latter will have reduced rooftop fireworks and Tinker Bell will not fly. There have been no announcements concerning firework performances on Wednesday, July 7. Likewise, Busch Gardens location in Tampa Bay closed at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, July 6, “to ensure the safety of our ambassadors, guests and animals,” according to the park’s website. The park is expected to reopen at noon on Wednesday.
AccuWeather meteorologists project that Elsa will intensify into a hurricane prior to landfall, but as of 5 p.m. EDT Tuesday, it was still a tropical storm with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph. To be upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, winds need to reach 74 mph. A 78 mph wind gust was clocked at a buoy about 80 miles southwest of Cape Coral, but sustained winds were only 56 mph, AccuWeather Meteorologist Jesse Ferrell said. In the 5 p.m. EDT advisory issued by the NHC, the center of Elsa was about 155 miles south-southwest of Tampa and was moving north at 10 miles per hour.
The center of Tropical Storm Elsa was just off the coast of Florida late Tuesday afternoon, but clouds and rain were spreading across the state. (Image/NOAA)
The next 12 hours are expected to bring the worst weather conditions in Tampa, Florida, as the center of Elsa passes nearby. AccuWeather meteorologists expect wind gusts to top out around 60 mph and the storm surge along the coast to reach 2 to 4 feet. By the time the rain from Elsa ends, it could total more than what typically falls in the city in all of July, which is 7.07 inches.
AccuWeather’s Kim Leoffler, who is stationed in St. Petersburg, Florida, near Clearwater Beach, saw many people enjoying a day at the beach ahead of Tropical Storm Elsa’s arrival. The weather in Clearwater Beach is currently partly sunny and 82 degrees, with an AccuWeather RealFeel® temperature of 95. The weather is set to deteriorate this afternoon as Elsa approaches, bringing wind gusts of up to 70 miles per hour, heavy rains and a storm surge of 1-3 feet. Track Elsa as it makes its way toward Florida with AccuWeather’s hurricane tracker.
Part of the western coast of Florida is under a hurricane warning as Elsa strengthens as it nears the coast. The hurricane warning is the first one issued since last hurricane season and extends from Egmont Key to the Steinhatchee River, which includes Tampa.
Additionally, a tornado watch has been issued for more than 12 million people across Florida due to the potential for tornadoes that may quickly spin up in the rain bands of Elsa. This watch extends all the way to the Atlantic coast of the Florida Peninsula, including Miami.
As of 1 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Elsa is continuing the churn northwest of Key West, Florida, as it gears up for its forecasted landfall near Tampa. Around 1 p.m., a buoy at “Satan Shoal” near the west end of the Florida Keys reported waves over 14.4 feet, while a wind gust recorded at Key West International Airport topped out at 70 mph earlier in the day. Effects from the tropical system also triggered a tornado warning, enacted for Collier, Glades and Hendry counties. A tornado watch was issued for southern Florida Tuesday afternoon through 11 p.m. EDT.
After being delayed, the Hurricane Hunters took to the sky on a mission to collect data on Tropical Storm Elsa late Tuesday morning. The aircraft took off from Kessler Air Force Base in Mississippi after poor weather disrupted plans to take off earlier in the morning. “After some bad weather we’re finally off to go collect data from the other bad weather,” the Hurricane Hunters said on Twitter. “We can fly in weather, but taking off in it is another story.” The crew will use sensors to sample the atmosphere in and around Elsa to give meteorologists a better understanding of how strong the storm is and where it is heading.
The Hurricane Hunters taking off from Kessler Air Force Base, Mississippi, on July 6, 2021. (Image/ U.S. Air Force/ Sgt. Kristen Pittman)
The Miami and Orlando metropolitan areas were two of the most popular places to move to during the pandemic, meaning many in Florida will be experiencing a tropical system for the first time as Elsa approaches. Newcomers to hurricane season should know that tropical weather should be taken seriously – storm surges, high winds and flooding are potentially deadly hazards, with extreme damage to homes and property possible.
As Elsa approaches, it is important to understand the difference between a watch and a warning. A watch means hurricane or tropical storm conditions are possible in the next 48 hours, while a warning means hurricane or tropical storm conditions are expected in the next 24 hours. Download the AccuWeather app to keep in the know on tropical systems and pay attention to watches and warnings issued by the National Weather Service.
With Elsa in mind, officials in Surfside, Florida made the decision late Sunday night to demolish the remaining structure of the partially collapsed condominium. The condo, which killed at least 28 people and has left 117 others unaccounted for when it collapsed on June 24, was completely demolished in order to secure the rubble site ahead of Elsa. Leaders were worried that the storm could threaten the structural integrity of the portion left standing, posing a threat to recovery workers.
According to CNN, search and rescue efforts are still pushing ahead on Tuesday, even as the tropical storm moves closer. Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett told CNN that the teams are “now at 100% full strength, full-on pulling everybody out of that rubble pile.”
A live feed from Earthcam shows the dousing effect Elsa has already made on Key West, Florida, flooding Duval Street on Tuesday morning. At Key West International Airport, over 3.5 inches of rain were recorded on Tuesday morning, while estimates showed as much as 7 inches in the western Keys. AccuWeather National Reporter Bill Wadell, also in the area, shared footage of anchored sailboats having a rough time in the choppy waters, churned by the incoming storm and gusts that have been recorded up to 70 mph.
AccuWeather's Bill Wadell is live in Key West, Florida, joined by the Monroe County Commissioner to talk about Elsa's effects on the Keys, which include street flooding and strong wind gusts.
AccuWeather's Bill Wadell was in Key West, Florida, on July 6, as Tropical Storm Elsa swept through the region.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in its 11 a.m. EDT advisory on Elsa that the storm's maximum sustained winds remained at 60 mph, keeping the system at tropical-storm strength. Elsa was about 65 miles west-northwest of Key West, Florida, and moving north-northwest at 10 mph. The storm will continue to strengthen as it moves northward near the west coast of Florida, and it’s possible that it could strengthen back to hurricane force before making landfall. It’s tropical-storm-force winds are extending outwards up to 70 mph from Elsa’s center, and most of the impacts are skewed to the storm’s eastern side. A gust of 59 mph was measured in Key West International Airport, and Sand Key, Florida, recorded a gust of 64 mph.
Elsa Satellite 7/6 Noon
In the latest episode of AccuWeather's Weather Insider podcast, AccuWeather Chief Broadcast Meteorologist Bernie Rayno breaks down the latest forecast for Elsa, and discusses the expected impacts for Tampa and other parts of Florida's western coast. Rayno also discusses the tornado risks associated with Elsa as the storm moves toward land and where it will head after it strikes Florida. Give it a listen below.
Just five weeks in, the Atlantic hurricane season is off to a wild start -- and not just in terms of overall storm numbers. The current tally is at five named tropical storms. Elsa became the earliest-ever fifth-named storm to develop in the Atlantic on July 1, 2021, and it went on to strengthen enough to become the first hurricane of the season in the Caribbean, albeit briefly. But other numbers are also pacing ahead of normal and even ahead of last year’s record season to date. The Accumulated Cyclone Energy, or ACE, factors in the strength of tropical systems over their lifetime, and can provide meteorologists with a good sense of the intensity of a hurricane season. As of July 5, the ACE was already at 8.20 so far for the 2021 hurricane season compared to the average of 1.8 for the date. Last year’s hyperactive season, which had spawned four storms to date, had an ACE value of 6.94 on July 5. AccuWeather Senior On-Air Meteorologist Geoff Cornish pointed out that the season is still far from over, and we’re “only in the second inning, season-wise, if this were a baseball game."
A max of up to 6 feet of storm surge is possible in some areas of Florida, as the entire western coast of the state is under a storm surge warning. The warning extends from Bonita Beach to the Aucilla River and includes Tampa Bay. According to AccuWeather Meteorologist Thomas Geiger, a storm surge of 1 to 3 feet, along with possibly up to 4 inches of rain, is possible for Tampa, near where Elsa is currently predicted to make landfall.
The Elsa storm surge forecast July 6.
The Tuesday night game between the Tampa Bay Rays and Cleveland Indians in St. Petersburg, Florida, has been postponed due to the expected impacts of Tropical Storm Elsa in the Tampa region. The Rays announced that the game would be made up on Wednesday, July 7, as part of a doubleheader. Both games will be seven innings. Even though Tropicana Field, the Rays' home stadium, has a roof, conditions are forecast to be too dangerous in the region as Elsa serves up winds of 40-60 mph and heavy, inundating rain in the area later Tuesday. Tornadoes and waterspouts are also possible.
As Tropical Storm Elsa approached the Florida Keys, large muddy waves pounded the coastline at a famous place in Key West known as the Southernmost Point, which is a popular place with tourists for photo ops. The only photo op today was one caught by AccuWeather National Reporter Bill Wadell, who is stationed there covering the storm, showing the choppy surf and waves hammering the coastline, which is 90 miles from Cuba. As the storm neared the Keys on Monday night, a buoy off the coast of Key West recorded wave heights as high as 12 feet.
Waves stirred up by Tropical Storm slammed the Southernmost Point of the continental U.S. in Key West, Florida, on Tuesday, July 6, 2021. (AccuWeather / Bill Wadell)
Residents throughout the Sunshine State spent Monday piecing together the final touches of preparation for Elsa, where wind and rain are expected to impact communities from Fort Myers to Tampa. In Fort Myers, AccuWeather National Reporter Emmy Victor caught up with locals who were filling sandbags to prepare for the storm surge. “When it gets four or more feet of storm surge or high tide, then it could get flooded," resident Don Baker told her. "That’s the reason why we’re here. We have three doors to fill."
"You never know, I mean at the last minute it could turn and come in where they don’t expect it to come in, and if you’re prepared, you’re not sorry later," Sue James added.
AccuWeather National Reporters Bill Wadell, Emmy Victor and Kim Leoffler are stationed throughout Florida, prepared to deliver the latest updates from the ground. Wadell is located in Key West, where Elsa began causing disruptions on Tuesday morning, while Victor is in Fort Myers and Leoffler is in St. Petersburg.
AccuWeather National Reporters Bill Wadell, Emmy Victor and Kim Leoffler are stationed throughout Florida, prepared to deliver the latest updates on Elsa from the ground.
Top StoriesMore Stories