Hurricane Elsa has been upgraded to the first Atlantic hurricane of this year’s season after becoming considerably more intense Friday morning, and it is projected to hit Florida early next week.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) announced the upgrade in a statement Friday, noting that hurricane conditions such as strong winds and heavy rainfall are most likely to form in several Caribbean islands later in the day. The NHC recorded winds late Friday morning with speeds of around 75 miles per hour and gusts of up to 90 miles per hour.
“A hurricane warning means that hurricane conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area, in this case in the next few hours. Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion,” the statement read.
Here are the 11 AM AST Key Messages for Hurricane #Elsa, now crossing the southern Leeward Islands. New watches and warnings issued for portions of Hispaniola and for Jamaica. More info: https://t.co/tW4KeFW0gB pic.twitter.com/hugeTWUUbv
— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) July 2, 2021
The Category 1 hurricane is currently moving west-northwest at 29 miles per hour through the Caribbean Sea. Hurricane warnings are in place for several Caribbean nations and a hurricane watch is in effect for Haiti and Jamaica, according to CNN.
Elsa could hit the Florida Keys as early as Monday morning, with heavy wind and rainfall expected at the southernmost part of the state. Some forecasters at the NHC also said the hurricane could hit northern Florida, along with parts of Georgia and South Carolina, later next week, according to The Hill.
“It is too soon to determine what, if any, impacts could occur there next week given the uncertainty in the long-range forecast,” the NHC said in a public advisory Friday afternoon.
The hurricane was initially categorized as a tropical storm, after forming in the Atlantic earlier this week. Elsa was the fifth tropical storm of the year before its reclassification as the season’s first hurricane. Its emergence is well ahead of schedule as the first hurricane of the season isn’t usually seen until August, according to CNN. (RELATED: Tropical Storm Danny Forms Off South Carolina Coast, Expected To Hit Southeast US)
Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said on Twitter that officials are continuously monitoring atmospheric conditions ahead of Elsa’s forecasted arrival. He also warned in remarks Friday morning the hurricane could affect search and rescue efforts at the site of the Surfside condo collapse, according to CNN.
“It is possible that this area could see tropical storm-force winds,” he said. “Not guaranteed, but it is possible, and so our Department of Emergency Management is assuming that that will happen and making the necessary preparations to be able, obviously, to protect a lot of the equipment.”