MIAMI — Tropical Storm Elsa neared the Florida Keys early Tuesday , hitting the island chain with heavy rain and gusty wind.
The rest of South Florida will also get some rough weather, with the potential for tornadoes. Forecasters predict an 80% chance of rain and thunderstorms in Miami-Dade and a 70% chance in Broward County, according to the National Weather Service.
The storm is is expected to slowly strengthen as it creeps along Florida's Gulf coast, and it could be near hurricane strength before making landfall in the state.
A hurricane warning was issued Tuesday for the west-central and Big Bend coast of Florida, from Egmont Key to the Steinhatchee River. A hurricane watch is also in effect for the area.
Here's what to know about Elsa's track:
Q. Where is Elsa now?
A. Elsa was about 50 miles southwest of Key West with maximum sustained winds at 60 mph with higher gusts, as of the National Hurricane Center's 5 a.m. Tuesday advisory.
Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 70 miles from the center. A wind gust of 45 mph was recently measured in Sand Key, according to the hurricane center.
Q. Where is Elsa going and how strong will it be?
Elsa was moving toward the north-northwest near 12 mph and is expected to make a turn toward the north by Tuesday night.
A. On the forecast track, Elsa is expected to pass near the Florida Keys Tuesday morning, and will then move near or over portions of the state's west coast Tuesday into Wednesday.
While it could near hurricane-level strength before making landfall along Florida's west coast, the hurricane center expects it will weaken once it moves inland.
The tropical storm is forecast to move into Georgia late Wednesday or early Thursday, and is expected to weaken into a tropical depression. It should then move through the Carolinas before returning back into the Atlantic, where it's forecast to strengthen into a tropical storm again.
Q. What should South Florida and the rest of the state expect?
A. Tropical storm conditions are beginning Tuesday in the Florida Keys from Craig Key west to the Dry Tortugas, which are under a tropical storm warning.
Tropical-storm-force winds and heavy rain are expected to spread north, especially toward the Lower Keys with three to five inches of rain likely, with some isolated areas possibly seeing up to eight inches of rain through Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service in Key West. This may result in considerable flash and urban flooding, along with minor to isolated moderate river flooding.
Tropical storm conditions should be felt in west-central Florida and the Big Bend region Tuesday night and early Wednesday, when hurricane conditions could be possible. Tropical storm conditions could also be possible late Tuesday west of the Ochlockonee River to Indian Pass, which is under a tropical storm watch.
Forecasters say most of Florida should expect between two to four inches of rain, with isolated areas possibly seeing up to six inches of rain through Wednesday night. This could result in isolated flash, urban and minor river flooding.
Swells are also forecast to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions across portions of the Florida Keys and the state's west coast through Wednesday. As for tornadoes, there's a possible risk across the state through Tuesday night. North Florida could also see some tornadoes Wednesday.
The combination of a storm surge and the tide will also cause normally dry areas near Florida's coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline, according to the hurricane center. The Florida Keys from Craig Key to Dry Tortugas and from Ochlockonee River to Indian Pass are forecast to see one to two feet of storm surge. Flamingo to Bonita Beach is forecast to see one to three feet. The Aucilla River to Ochockonee River and from Bonita Beach to Englewood, including Charlotte Harbor, are forecast to see between two to four feet. From Englewood to Aucilla River, including Tampa Bay, expect three to five feet of storm surge.
Elsa watches/warnings in Florida
— The west-central and Big Bend coast of Florida from Egmont Key to the Steinhatchee River are now under a hurricane watch.
— A storm surge warning is in effect for the west coast of Florida from Bonita Beach to the Aucilla River, including Tampa Bay. A storm surge watch is in effect west of the Aucilla River to the Ochlockonee River.
— A tropical storm warning remains in effect for the Florida Keys from Craig Key westward to the Dry Tortugas and the west coast of Florida from Flamingo northward to Ochlockonee River. A tropical storm warning is also still in effect for the Cuban provinces of Matanzas, Mayabeque, Havana and Artemisa.
— A tropical storm watch is in effect west of the Ochlockonee River to Indian Pass, FL and from the Mouth of St. Marys River to South Santee River, SC.©2021 Miami Herald. Visit at miamiherald.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.