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Tropical Storm Elsa takes aim at Dominican Republic and Haiti, and could threaten Florida next week

Jul 3, 2021, 11:37 AM

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   (CNN) — Tropical Storm Elsa is set to batter southern Hispaniola and Jamaica with heavy rain and high winds on Saturday and Cuba later this weekend, threatening flash flooding and mudslides in parts of those islands.

The forecast is less certain after Sunday, but Elsa could bring rain and winds to South Florida next week as a tropical storm — perhaps including around the site of the deadly Surfside condo collapse — the National Hurricane Center said.

Elsa had been a Category 1 hurricane Friday and early Saturday, but was downgraded to a tropical storm late Saturday morning with sustained winds of 70 mph.

As of 11 a.m. ET, its center was about 40 miles south miles of Isla Beata, Dominican Republic, the NHC said.

TRACK ELSA HERE

Elsa is expected to pass near or along the southern coasts of the Dominican Republic and Haiti on Saturday, and to track near Jamaica on Sunday.

Heavy rain is expected in parts of those island nations through Sunday, with 4 to 15 inches possible, perhaps leading to scattered flash flooding and mudslides, according to the NHC.

Cuba and parts of the Cayman Islands would be next, with eastern Cuba maybe getting tropical storm conditions by Sunday. Rainfall of 5 to 15 inches is possible in those areas Sunday and Monday.

Significant flash flooding and mudslides are possible in Cuba, especially across the more mountainous regions.

Though Elsa’s center has already passed south of Puerto Rico, its outer bands also will drop rain there Saturday. Rainfall of about 1 to 5 inches is possible there, as are isolated flash flooding and mudslides, the NHC said.

Elsa’s path toward US coast is less certain

After Sunday, the forecast and Elsa’s eventual impacts to the US coast, including Florida, are more uncertain.

Based on the latest forecast track, Elsa could start bringing winds and rain to the Florida Keys and southwestern Florida by Monday night as a tropical storm. It then could track along Florida’s west coast early next week.

But even the storm’s center tracks toward western Florida, the southeastern Florida community of Surfside is “still going to possibly see some impacts, even if it’s just some of the outer bands” of rain and wind by Tuesday or Wednesday, CNN meteorologist Tyler Mauldin said.

Search and rescue operations still are underway at the site of a June 24 condominium collapse in Surfside. Elsa’s approach could impact that, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday.

“It is possible that this area could see tropical storm-force winds,” he said Friday morning. “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.”

Elsa was the first hurricane of the 2021 Atlantic season, and the third named storm to pose a threat to the US coast.

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Tropical Storm Elsa takes aim at Dominican Republic and Haiti, and could threaten Florida next week