MIAMI, Florida – The Keys and the west coast of Florida are in an emergency situation due to the arrival of Tropical Storm Elsa, whose rains and electrical equipment are already making it difficult for rescuers looking for victims of the Miami-Dade landslide, which, even so, they have found four more bodies in the last hours.
Elsa, which was the first hurricane of 2021 in the Atlantic, may reach that category again before making landfall somewhere on the northern part of the west coast of Florida Wednesday, as the National Hurricane Center (NHC) has warned.
It will not be the first storm to make landfall in the US this year. Claudette hit Alabama in June, where a dozen deaths were recorded in related accidents, and Danny did so in South Carolina without causing significant damage.
Twenty-two of the 67 counties that Florida is divided into have been declared in emergency, but, as Governor Ron DeSantis said, not only the places that are in the cone of trajectory can suffer the consequences of Elsa.
The emergency zone is the Gulf of Mexico riparian, whose warm waters – 84 degrees Fahrenheit (22.8 degrees Celsius) today in Sarasota – act as fuel for cyclones.
The search instead of collapse continues
In Miami-Dade, which is on the east coast, along the Atlantic, the rains from Elsa’s outer bands, accompanied by electrical equipment, have forced rescuers working on the rubble of the Champlain Towers South building, which It was totally demolished last Sunday, July 4.
According to the mayor of Miami-Dade County, Daniella Levine Cava, to date there are already 32 confirmed victims of the collapse of the northeast wing of the building that occurred on June 24 and 113 people remain unaccounted for.
Four more bodies were removed from the rubble since Monday afternoon.
The Florida Keys, the string of islands between mainland Florida and Cuba, are not going to receive the direct impact of Elsa either, but they are already suffering from her proximity. in the form of winds, rain and swells.
In Key West, an international tourist destination, public transport is suspended this Monday, public offices and schools closed this Tuesday and there are no services such as garbage collection, according to the Mayor’s Office of the city.
The stores remained open.
A neighbor, quoted by a local media, said that for the people of the Keys, who have endured hurricanes like the devastating Andrew (1992) these is “just rain.”
Key West Airport did not announce closure to traffic but confirmed several flight cancellations.
Emergency alert to the west coast
The one that will close as of today afternoon is the Tampa airport, a city in central Florida that is within the area placed under hurricane watch by the US National Hurricane Center (NHC).
The area runs from Egmont Key in Tampa Bay to the mouth of the Steinhatchee River on the north west coast.
According to the NHC, at 11 a.m. Miami (4 p.m. GMT) downtown Elsa, which this morning left Cuba behind and passed near the westernmost keys, was about 215 miles (345 km) south of Tampa.
Maximum sustained winds were 60 miles per hour (95 km / h) and reached a distance of 70 miles (110 km) from the center.
The storm is moving at 10 miles per hour (17 km / h) to the north-northwest and will maintain that direction until Wednesday, when it turns north-northeast.
It will make landfall on Wednesday morning and then, weaker, turn northeast and cross Georgia and South Carolina on Thursday in search of an outlet to the Atlantic.
Governor Ron Desantis this morning urged the population to be prepared for the storm and to stay informed about the situation in case there are changes.
National Guard reservists activate
He said, about 250 Florida National Guards (reservists) have been called to help in this emergency.
Florida Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Núñez, who was at a press conference in Surfside this morning, indicated that all necessary emergency measures have been taken and shelters have been set up on the west coast for those who decide to leave their residences while the storm passes.
8,000 power company workers on guard
He also indicated that there are more than 8,000 electric company workers on call to quickly undertake the repairs that are necessary in the event that the electric service is affected.
Besides the whipping of the wind, Elsa’s path zone it can experience a rise in sea level as a result of a combination of storm surge and tide, flooding caused by rain, river overflowing and tornadoes.
Núñez said that the soils of the east coast are saturated with water due to the rains that have fallen in recent days and that complicates things.
Fifth tropical storm of 2021 in the Atlantic, Elsa also became the first hurricane of this year in the Atlantic basin when it passed through the eastern Caribbean until it reached Cuba on Monday.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.