Elsa strengthened from a tropical storm into a Category 1 Hurricane as it barreled up Florida’s west coast tonight, bringing with it the threat of heavy rain, flooding, and high winds.
At its 8 p.m. update, the National Hurricane Center put Hurricane Elsa 100 miles (165 kilometers) south-southwest of Tampa, Florida, moving to the north at 14 mph (22 kph). Elsa now has maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph) with higher gusts.
The northward movement of the storm will continue through the night, with a turn to the north-northeast expected on Wednesday, followed by a faster track to the northeast on Thursday.
Hurricane Elsa will make landfall Wednesday morning, the hurricane center said. But its effects will stretch far from the actual center of the storm. “It really is about all those impacts well away from the storm, as well as inside the storm,” Ken Graham, director of the hurricane center, said late Tuesday afternoon.
Hurricane warnings were in effect from Tampa Bay all the way north to the Steinhatchee River in the state’s Big Bend region. A Category 1 hurricane is strong enough to topple trees, send streets signs flying, and damage unanchored mobile homes.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis expanded a state of emergency to include more counties Tuesday. The counties added to the emergency declaration include seven counties in northeast Florida: Baker, Bradford, Clay, Duval, Nassau, Putnam, and Union counties
Tampa International Airport suspended all commercial operations at 5 p.m. due to the storm with plans to resume Wednesday morning. Power company Duke Energy said it called in crews from out of state.