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July 2, 2021

Tropical Storm Elsa strengthened into a hurricane early Friday morning, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) announced, becoming the first hurricane of the 2021 season in the Atlantic Ocean as the storm batters the Caribbean and heads toward Florida.

 

Hurricane warnings are now in effect for Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, with tropical storm warnings in effect for parts of the Dominican Republic, the coast of Haiti and Martinique.

A hurricane watch is in effect for southern Haiti and a tropical storm watch is in effect for Grenada and its dependencies, Jamaica, Dominica, Saba and Sint Eustatius.

The NHC reported at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time the areas under hurricane warnings will see hurricane conditions in the next few hours, with the storm projected to produce rainfall totals of approximately three to six inches, though some areas like Barbados could get as much as 10 inches of rain.

Puerto Rico may also get up to five inches of rain in some areas, while southern Hispaniola and Jamaica could see potentially up to 12 inches of rain over the weekend from Saturday into Sunday.

The Category 1 storm now has maximum sustained winds of 75 miles per hour, the NHC reports.

The Associated Press reports officials in St. Vincent have encouraged some residents to evacuate in light of the hurricane, which could potentially cause flash flooding and mudslides.

Hurricane Elsa is now moving northwest and is expected to pass over the Windward Islands or southern Leeward Islands this morning before heading to the eastern Caribbean sea later today and near the island of Hispaniola tomorrow. The hurricane is then projected to reach Jamaica and portions of Cuba by Sunday. The storm’s longer term trajectory projects Elsa to move into Florida next week after it travels up the Caribbean, reaching the southeastern Florida coast by 2 a.m. Tuesday and moving up to the northern part of the state by 2 a.m. Wednesday. The NHC notes the storm could bring “storm surge, wind and rainfall” to the Florida Keys and other parts of Florida, but the forecast remains uncertain.

 

Elsa marks the first hurricane of what’s expected to be a busier-than-usual season in the Atlantic, coming after several tropical storms have already made landfall in the U.S. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has projected there are likely to be between three and five major hurricanes this season—defined as a Category 3 or above—and six to 10 hurricanes overall, as part of a projected 13 to 20 storms that are strong enough to be named. Storm seasons have become more active in recent years—with climate change believed to be a factor in the increase—and last year there were so many storms the NHC ran out of names and had to turn to the Greek alphabet to label the weather events.

Hurricane Elsa is coming to the Caribbean as some islands are still recovering from major volcanic eruptions that began in the spring, with the AP noting 2,000 people in St. Vincent are still in shelters from the volcano as the hurricane arrives.

The NOAA in April adjusted its standard of what constitutes an “average” hurricane season to reflect the increase in storms in recent years. The average Atlantic hurricane season is now 14 named storms and seven hurricanes, up from 12 named storms and six hurricanes in the past. The number of average major hurricanes—three—remains unchanged.







Source: Forbes
Image Source: Getty Images