FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Elsa became the season’s first hurricane Friday morning and South Florida along with most of the rest of the state remains in the forecast path for a possible landfall early next week, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Elsa is located 20 miles west-southwest of Barbados, and is moving west-northwest at a brisk 28 mph. An even faster motion to the west-northwest is expected over the next 24 to 36 hours as it steams toward the Florida, the hurricane center said.
Hurricane-force winds extend 25 miles from Elsa’s center and Tropical Storm-force-winds extend 140 miles.
Elsa is a Category 1 hurricane with wind speeds of 75 miles per hour and gusts up to 86 mph. Hurricanes begin with a wind speed of 74 mph.
All of South Florida remains in the cone of Hurricane Elsa and the system could hit the region early next week as a tropical storm or even a hurricane.
It’s too early to determine whether Hurricane Elsa could hit South Florida as a hurricane.
“This forecast is most complicated by land interaction,” meteorologist Jonathan Belles of The Weather Channel said in an email. “We don’t know exactly how this system will interact with Hispaniola, Jamaica or Cuba this weekend. The more interaction Elsa has with those countries, the weaker the storm will be as it gets closer to Florida.
“A secondary factor that we’ll be watching with this system is its forward speed. It is being shoved westward at a much faster clip than most systems can sustain themselves at, but this forward speed should slow down somewhat. Wind shear is a concern with this storm too, but to a lesser degree than the other two factors.”
Forecasters mentioned Elsa’s possible development into a hurricane Thursday, but there was no hint it would develop so quickly.
“I would say at this point, with a Tropical Storm being forecast, it isn’t unreasonable for South Floridians to be ready for the potential of a Category 1 hurricane knocking on our door early next week,” said Robert Garcia, a meteorologist with the National Hurricane Center.