The hurricane center said there’s an increasing chance of rain, wind, and storm surge in the Florida Keys and peninsula through Tuesday, but the forecast remains uncertain due to Elsa’s possible interaction with land in the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba.
The hurricane, moving at a blazing forward speed of 29 mph, was located 100 miles west-southwest of Isla Beata, Dominican Republic, according to the National Hurricane Center, and 255 miles east of Kingston, Jamaica. Tropical force-winds extend 125 miles from the center.
Elsa is expected to slow down a bit later Saturday and and turn northwest Sunday night or Monday.
The hurricane center said tropical storm watches might be necessary across parts of South Florida later today. It said Elsa could present wind, storm surge, rain and tornado threats. It said biggest threat appears to be late Sunday night through Tuesday, and rain squalls and windy conditions could being as early as Sunday night.
However, it still says the most likely arrival of tropical storm-force-winds in South Florida is Monday morning or afternoon.
Land, especially mountains in Cuba, remain the biggest factor in reducing Elsa’s intensity before its possible Florida arrival.
Elsa’s rapid pace means it will have difficulty regaining strength, according to experts. The structure of a hurricane is most effective when its straight up and down, like a chimney, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Joel Cline.
“If one section is moving faster than the other, e.g. in this case the lower level is moving forward at 25 to 30 mph and the mid-level of the same tropical system is moving about 15 mph, then the difference in those winds would shear the chimney and the smoke comes out the bottom of the chimney and the fire goes out,” Cline said in an email.
“In the tropical system, the system would fall apart with the low-level center and likely no convection or storms moving away from the mid-level center, and thus nearly all the convection would die out and the system dies.”
The current forecast path takes Elsa over the southern coast of the Dominican Republic and Haiti tonight, and near Jamaica and portions of eastern Cuba on Sunday.