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Tropical Storm Elsa causes power outages but no major flooding so far

Tampa Bay Times logo Tampa Bay Times 7/7/2021 Jamal Thalji, Tampa Bay Times
a group of people standing around a fire hydrant: Jacob Baker, 7, works with neighbor, Dan Meegan at the 49th Street Neighborhood Center where people were busy filling sand bags in preparation for Tropical Storm Elsa, Sunday, July 4, 2021 in Gulfport. © MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE/Times Jacob Baker, 7, works with neighbor, Dan Meegan at the 49th Street Neighborhood Center where people were busy filling sand bags in preparation for Tropical Storm Elsa, Sunday, July 4, 2021 in Gulfport.

Live updates: Morning after Elsa in Tampa Bay

Reporting an outage: How to notify Duke Energy and Tampa Electric

Closings and cancellations: Including schools, government and entertainment

Shelters open: Where to voluntarily seek shelter in each Tampa Bay county

After being downgraded as a hurricane, Tropical Storm Elsa was located about 70 miles west-northwest of Tampa, according to the National Hurricane Center’s 5 a.m. Wednesday advisory. It was moving north at 14 mph and generating maximum sustained winds of up to 65 mph. The National Hurricane Center projected there could be 3 to 5 feet of storm surge. The strongest wind recorded yet was 59 mph at Clearwater Beach.

a sign in front of a blue car: Flight cancellations seen on a board at Tampa International Airport's cell phone waiting lot on Tuesday, July 6, 2021. © Ivy Ceballo/Times Flight cancellations seen on a board at Tampa International Airport's cell phone waiting lot on Tuesday, July 6, 2021.

LATEST FORECAST TRACK

a statue in front of a building: Tim Mullen, 47, and Michael Brissette, 11, cover their windows with hurricane shutters in preparation for Tropical Storm Elsa, Tuesday, July 6, 2021 in Tampa. © Arielle Bader/Times Tim Mullen, 47, and Michael Brissette, 11, cover their windows with hurricane shutters in preparation for Tropical Storm Elsa, Tuesday, July 6, 2021 in Tampa.

WIND FORECAST

STORM SURGE FORECAST

LIVE RADAR (3-HOUR LOOP)

6:50 a.m. Many flights remain canceled at Tampa International Airport

Dozens of flights through Tampa International Airport were canceled as of 6:45 a.m. Wednesday morning.

a man riding a motorcycle down a street: John Jelkl, 71, has his wheelchair loaded down with sandbags as he leaves the sandbagging site in the parking lot of the James “JC” Turner Fields, on Tuesday, July 6, 2021 in St. Petersburg. Pictured in the background, on left, are cars waiting in line for sandbags. “I stay in a place that is low,” Jelkl said. “I gotta put down sandbags so water won’t get in.” © Dirk Shadd/Times John Jelkl, 71, has his wheelchair loaded down with sandbags as he leaves the sandbagging site in the parking lot of the James “JC” Turner Fields, on Tuesday, July 6, 2021 in St. Petersburg. Pictured in the background, on left, are cars waiting in line for sandbags. “I stay in a place that is low,” Jelkl said. “I gotta put down sandbags so water won’t get in.”

About 60 departing flights were canceled as of that time, according to the Tampa airport’s website. The cancellations were largely for morning departures through about 10 a.m. Just over 30 arriving flights were also canceled, some ranging into Wednesday afternoon.

Tampa International suspended operations at 5 p.m. Tuesday night in anticipation of Tropical Storm Elsa. Travelers whose flights are scheduled through Friday should check with their airlines for the most current flight information.

St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport canceled three flights from Allegiant Air as of Wednesday morning. The airport closed its administrative office at 2 p.m. Tuesday.

6:30 a.m. Pinellas ‘fortunate.’ No rescues needed overnight, no road closures, officials say

Pinellas County officials have released this media alert:

At approximately 4:00 a.m. this morning, July 7, 2021,Tropical Storm Elsa’s center passed just off the coast of Clearwater.

Pinellas County deputies monitored conditions throughout the night, including restricting access to the barrier islands.

Pinellas County was fortunate to have not experienced more severe weather as forecasted. No rescues were conducted overnight due to high water or flooding.

Due to improved conditions and Elsa clearing the county over the next hour, deputies will be allowing access to the barrier islands and Pinellas County beaches at 6:30 a.m. this morning.No injuries have been reported to any citizens or deputies.

At this time, there are no road closures and deputies are currently doing assessments throughout the county and we will provide updates if needed.

Residents can document damages to their home or public areas by visiting https://storm.pinellascounty.org. 911 is for reporting life-threatening emergencies only, not damages or power outages.

6 a.m. Stay put if you can, Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office says

5:45 a.m. Elsa moving up Florida’s west coast

The storm’s sustained winds had decreased further, down to about 65 mph as it moved northwest almost parallel to Florida’s west coast at about 14 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center’s 5 a.m. update. Elsa was about 50 miles southwest of Cedar Key and was expected to make landfall in the Citrus-Levy-Dixie county areas later Wednesday morning.

a couple of people that are standing in the sand: Melissa Loven, Qi Crystal Energy shop owner, (left) and Crea Egan (right) prepare the store ahead of tropical storm Elsa Tuesday, July 6, 2021. © John Pendygraft/Times Melissa Loven, Qi Crystal Energy shop owner, (left) and Crea Egan (right) prepare the store ahead of tropical storm Elsa Tuesday, July 6, 2021.

A tropical storm warning was in effect for a stretch of Florida’s west coast from Chassahowitzka to Egmont Key.

a man and a woman walking down the street: Foot traffic was sparse and most businesses closed by late Tuesday, July 6, 2021, on Dodecanese Blvd at the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks where building were being prepared for the arrival of Tropical Storm Elsa. © Douglas R. Clifford/Times Foot traffic was sparse and most businesses closed by late Tuesday, July 6, 2021, on Dodecanese Blvd at the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks where building were being prepared for the arrival of Tropical Storm Elsa.

While Elsa is expected to remain a tropical storm until landfall, the hurricane center warned that it could further weaken even before it reaches land.

But Elsa’s demotion did not change its potential impact on the Tampa Bay region: Storm surge, gusty winds up to 60 mph and possibly an isolated tornado, said National Weather Service meteorologist Tony Hurt.

a man standing in front of a door: Joe Krutzik, of Holiday, uses a sandbag to protect the inside of Gloria’s Gifts from flooding on Tuesday, July 6, 2021, on Dodecanese Blvd at the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks where business were being closed and prepared for the arrival of Tropical Storm Elsa. © Douglas R. Clifford/Times Joe Krutzik, of Holiday, uses a sandbag to protect the inside of Gloria’s Gifts from flooding on Tuesday, July 6, 2021, on Dodecanese Blvd at the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks where business were being closed and prepared for the arrival of Tropical Storm Elsa.

5 a.m. Pinellas, Pasco report no damage; sheriff’s helicopter will check from air

So far, Pinellas County officials say they’ve received no reports of widespread damage or flooding. The county so far has received an average number of 911 calls.

“The main impact we’re seeing so far is the power outages,” said county spokesperson Dave Connor.

The Duke Energy outage map showed about 6,000 Pinellas customers without power.

The TECO Energy outage map shows about 14,000 customers without power in Hillsborough, Pasco and Polk counties.

At first light, weather permitting, a Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office helicopter will be launched to inspect the county from the air to find any areas of damage that haven’t been reported yet.

a group of people sitting at a dock: Stelios Uzunbylu, left, and Jerry Kalouris, right, secure a tarp over a cargo hold on his sponge boat on Tuesday, July 6, 2021, on Dodecanese Blvd at the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks where businesses were being closed and boats were being prepared for the arrival of Tropical Storm Elsa. © Douglas R. Clifford/Times Stelios Uzunbylu, left, and Jerry Kalouris, right, secure a tarp over a cargo hold on his sponge boat on Tuesday, July 6, 2021, on Dodecanese Blvd at the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks where businesses were being closed and boats were being prepared for the arrival of Tropical Storm Elsa.

There were no reports of major damage in Pasco County, either, a county spokesperson said. But it’s too soon to know for sure.

4 a.m. Elsa moves on, leaving wind and water behind in the bay

Strong winds and persistent rain continued to pummel the Tampa Bay region as Tropical Storm Elsa moved further north and away from the bay area early Wednesday.

The highest maximum sustained wind recorded during the storm was the 59 mph recorded at Clearwater Beach, according to the National Weather Service’s Ruskin bureau. In St. Petersburg, it was 52 mph at St. Petersburg’s Albert Whitted Airport. In Tampa it was 37 mph.

The Weather Service said it hadn’t yet received reports of storm damage. Nonetheless, its indicators show flood wasters rising so the impact of storm surge is hours from being known.

It won’t help that there’s been plenty of rain out there — yet somehow Tampa Bay was spared the most of it. The was a widespread 2 to 3 inches of rain across eastern Hillsborough, and some pockets of Tampa got up to 4 inches.

But a massive, counties-long rain band dropped 5 to 8 inches of rain waiter onto Manatee and Sarasota companies and up in some places up to 10 inches. Those bands are shifting east toward Polk, sparing Hillsborough.

“It’s not completely over, but it’s not too bad,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Jennifer Hubbard. “We’re doing okay.”

A tornado watch remains in effect for the Tampa Bay region until 8 a.m.

2:30 a.m. Power outages reported throughout Tampa Bay

Tropical Storm Elsa and its sustained winds of 70 mph were parallel with the Pinellas County coast at 2:30 a.m. Wednesday.

At the same time, power companies on both sides of Tampa Bay reported thousands of customers were without power. Despite Pinellas experiencing gusts as high as 59 mph in Clearwater, a majority of the outages were reported in Hillsborough County.

Duke Energy — the main energy provider for Pinellas County homes — had approximately 2,500 residences without power as of 2:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Meanwhile, TECO — which services Hillsborough County — reported nearly 12,000 outages at the same time.

1:15 a.m. Tornado warning issued for northeast Pasco

The tornado situation in east Pasco has grown more dire: A tornado warning was issued for Dade City, Ridge Manor and Lacoochee until 1:30 a.m., according to the National Weather Service.

A warning means a tornado may have been spotted on the ground or by weather radar and that “there is imminent danger to life and property,” according to the Weather Service.

The Tampa Bay region remains under a tornado watch until 8 a.m., which means tornadoes are possible and residents should keep an eye out in their area.

1 a.m. Elsa brings tropical storm-force winds, scattered showers to Tampa Bay

Hurricane Elsa is starting to be felt across the Tampa Bay region.

Anyone taking a quick look outside in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties can see the trees shake from tropical storm-force winds being generated by Elsa. Those are maximum sustained winds of 39 mph or greater measured for about a minute.

A wind gust of 52 mph was recorded at Albert Whitted Airport, according to the National Weather Service’s Ruskin bureau. The strongest wind gusts in Tampa were 35 mph at Tampa International Airport and 40 mph reading scattered around the area. The strongest wind gust remains the 54 mph recording made at Sarasota–Bradenton International Airport at 10:46 p.m.

But the rainfall, so far, has been moderate. The primary rain band over the bay area stretches from east Pasco south to East Hillsborough County and down through Sarasota and Manatee counties. The most rainfall so far is the 3 inches recorded in Ruskin, while 1½ to 2 inches has fallen across the region.

But the worst rain band was positioned just south of the Pinellas peninsula and should roll over in about an hour, bringing the worst wind and rain Elsa is sending Tampa Bay’s way.

“That’s probably the worst conditions of Elsa,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Tony Hurt. “It’s closest to the center, and when that band comes through we’ll get your gusty winds and heavy rain. That is likely the worst winds and heavy rains that Elsa has to offer Pinellas County.”

12 a.m. Tampa Bay experiences pockets of power loss

While Elsa steered past the Pinellas coast, a handful of power outages were reported on both sides of the bay.

In Pinellas, Duke Energy reported a total of 2,400 outages in pockets spread across the county.

There were slightly more outages in Hillsborough County, where the Tampa Electric Company reported about 1,000 customers were without power as of midnight.

Hillsborough customers can monitor power loss in their county by checking TECO Energy’s outage map.

Pinellas customers can check Duke Energy’s outage map.

11:30 p.m. Tornado watch extended to 8 p.m. for Tampa Bay region

The National Hurricane Center extended the tornado watch for the Tampa Bay region and much of central and southwest Florida until 8 a.m. as Hurricane Elsa continues its trek in the Gulf of Mexico along Florida’s west coast.

That means the tropical system could create tornadoes as it passes offshore. Hail is also a possibility, as are wind gusts of up to 70 mph.

10:00 p.m. Storm passing during low tide could limit flooding

The timing of low tide and Elsa’s arrival off the Pinellas County coast are expected to occur simultaneously. If this happens as expected, it would limit the amount of storm surge Hurricane Elsa could cause throughout Tampa Bay, according to Stephen Shively of the National Weather Service’s Ruskin Office.

This occurrence would be the opposite of what occurred with Tropical Storm Eta, which arrived in Tampa Bay last November while the region was at high tide. The ensuing storm surge caused floodwaters to inundate areas around South Tampa and Tampa General Hospital. Bayshore Boulevard and the Tampa Riverwalk were also completely underwater, while deputies in Pinellas County deployed high-water vehicles to rescue 33 people.

With Elsa set to pass Tampa Bay when water levels are lower overnight, however, Shively says the region won’t experience as dramatic flooding as it did last November.

8:49 p.m. Tampa Mayor Jane Castor provides Tampa contacts

8:20 p.m. Duke Energy actives extra crew members

Duke Energy has deployed about 3,000 personnel — such as crew members, contractors and tree specialists — to Pinellas County up to north Florida.

Additional line workers and support personal are arriving from the Carolinas, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. Areas likely to be affected by Hurricane Elsa will have personnel placed there for quicker and safer responses.

8:06 p.m. Photos: Hurricane Elsa preparation


Video: Power crews streaming in to assist ahead of Tropical Storm Elsa (WTSP-TV Tampa-St. Petersburg)

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UP NEXT

Times photographers document the hours before Hurricane Elsa is set to hit. See their photos here.

8:02 p.m. Elsa is once again a hurricane

Elsa had sustained winds of 75 mph as of 8 p.m. with higher gusts, according to the National Hurricane Center. That’s the minimum level of sustained winds to be considered hurricane strength.

Forecasters initially expected Elsa to be a tropical storm when it brushed past the Tampa Bay coastline, but the hurricane center projects the storm will remain a hurricane until it makes landfall.

– Josh Fiallo

6:34 p.m. Tampa Bay prepares as Elsa strengthens

Tampa Bay residents prepare for Tropical Storm Elsa after data from the hurricane hunter aircraft showed the storm strengthening. Elsa is expected to sustain hurricane-strength winds before landfall, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Local airports, summer school programs and several other closures have occurred across Tampa Bay.

Robert Robbins, 49 and Amber Kreeger, 30, are still recovering from Hurricane Eta in November. The damage to their home was around $80,000, however, insurance covered most costs. New appliances, not yet installed, are still sitting in their house.

“The exact same stars are aligning, and we’re expecting the exact same setup,” said Robbins. “We haven’t even finished remodeling.”

Read more: from our reporters Chris O’Donnell and Genevieve Redsten on how Tampa Bay is preparing for the storm.

6:03 p.m. Gov. Ron DeSantis gives Tropical Storm Elsa Update

Tropical Storm Elsa is forecast to become a hurricane before making landfall in Florida’s Big Bend region between 8 and 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said.

Areas of Tampa Bay will start to see strong winds tonight as Elsa is expected to graze Florida’s west coast before making landfall, with the storm’s current track projected to move through the northeast part of the state. That track is not expected to change, he said.

”Anything to the east of the eye will have some storm impacts,” DeSantis said. “Please heed any type of warnings from your local officials.”

Elsa is currently about 90 miles southwest of Fort Myers, moving north at 9 mph with 70-mph sustained winds, DeSantis said. While the impacts to the state so far have been minimal, DeSantis encouraged Floridians to be careful.

Currently, 33 counties are under a state of emergency and 1,500 Floridians are without power. On Tuesday afternoon, DeSantis extended a state of emergency to seven counties in northeast Florida: Baker, Bradford, Clay, Duval, Nassau, Putnam and Union counties.

”That’s reflecting the path of the storm,” DeSantis said. DeSantis said he’s already requested federal assistance for the storm, which was quickly approved. ”They’ve been great. They acted on that very quickly,” DeSantis said.

If Floridians wake up Wednesday and see damage to their home, they should immediately document it for insurance purposes, Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie said Tuesday.

”The best thing you can do as a homeowner is photograph that damage,” Guthrie said.

– Lawrence Mower

5:41 p.m. Tampa Bay hunkers down

5:40 p.m. Tampa Mayor Jane Castor promotes storm preparedness

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor encouraged residents to have a preparedness kit and to secure items in their homes and around their lawns during a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

”We know that everybody’s been through this before, but you have to understand your level of personal responsibility,” she said .

She reminded residents to sign up for text, email and phone call alerts from the City of Tampa.

”We like to describe this as a wet dry run,” she said.

– Genevieve Redsten

4:42 p.m. Pinellas beaches see first signs of wind and rain

4:08 p.m. HART transit will stop at 5 p.m.

Hillsborough County’s HART buses and trolleys will now suspend service at 5 p.m. The agency had earlier today said that transit would stop running at 5 p.m. More info here.

4:00 p.m. Unlike Eta, Elsa won’t arrive at high tide

Elsa has many similarities with Tropical Storm Eta, which drenched Tampa Bay in November. Shiveley said meteorologists at the National Weather Service’s Ruskin Office have briefly mixed the storms up in conversation at times.

But the storms aren’t identical. Elsa’s arrival off the Pinellas coast isn’t expected to coincide with high tide, according to Shiveley. That means the region will be slightly less susceptible to flooding on the coast. The hurricane center estimates Tampa Bay will experience two to four feet of storm surge.

”There will still be flooding and Bayshore Boulevard will still be underwater like always,” Shiveley said. “But it won’t be quite as dramatic as last year if the timing remains the same.”

– Josh Fiallo

3:45 p.m. Photos: Tampa Bay gets ready

3:35 p.m. Tampa Bay sees first power outages

Tampa Bay is seeing its first outages from Tropical Storm Elsa. About 1,831 Tampa Electric Co. customers were without power across Hillsborough County as of 3:30 p.m. The power company’s customer base of about 800,000 customers is largely in Hillsborough County. For Duke Energy Florida, about 534 customers were without power at that time. Pasco County outages made up the bulk at 264 customers without power, while 82 customers in Pinellas County were out. To report an outage, Duke Energy customers can text “OUT” to 57801, call 800-228-8485 or report it online. Tampa Electric customers can text “OUT” to 27079, call 877-588-1010 or report it online.

3:31 p.m. How to talk to kids about hurricanes

If you have the weather reports playing on a loop in your house right now, you might notice your children getting anxious as Tropical Storm Elsa approaches. Talk to your kids about safety, but don’t scare them, Dr. Marissa Feldman, a pediatric psychologist at the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, said.

A great way to relieve stress and build confidence is to give children jobs, like bringing in furniture from outside. Younger children may struggle to understand a hurricane, but making sure they understand the storm’s effects is most important. ”Try to keep things as normal as possible. If there’s a bedtime routine try to make sure that’s done tonight, because that also gives a sense of calmness and stability too,” Feldman said.

Read the full story with Feldman’s other tips here.

– Sharon Kennedy Wynne

3:11 p.m. The view from Key West

The Florida Keys began feeling the effects from Tropical Storm Elsa this morning. In Key West, gusts of up to 70 mph were recorded.

By late afternoon, the live camera on Duval Street showed that the street flooding had subsided, and the sidewalks were crowded.

2:43 p.m. Hillsborough, Pinellas shutting down buses and trolleys

Hillsborough County public buses and trolleys will idle tonight at 5 p.m. to protect employees and riders from the approaching tropical system. Across the bay, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority announced it will suspend bus service at 3:30 p.m. The buses will start rolling again Wednesday at 10 a.m. if the weather conditions allow in Hillsborough. In Pinellas, PSTA officials didn’t have a time listed on their website for service to resume.

Read more about how the storm is affecting public transportation here.

– Charlie Frago

Tampa volunteers help elderly fill sandbags ahead of Tropical Storm Elsa

Tampa’s elderly and disabled received extra help Monday filling sandbags after Tampa volunteers stepped up. Jae Passmore, 32, witnessed people, many elderly, struggling to shovel sand and carry heavy bags. Passmore and her partner collectively filled about 50 sandbags. Passmore broadened her reach and put out a call on social media asking friends she’d met from last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests to volunteer.

The all-hands call resulted in an organized volunteer effort for Tropical Storm Elsa sandbag help. Passmore said she did not see anyone helping to fill bags or with loading the heavy sacks into cars. A representative from the city of Tampa said there were staffers at all Tampa sandbag sites to assist those in need of help. “I’m really worried that somebody might have a heat injury, if people aren’t used to doing this type of labor,” Passmore said.

Read more here.

– Hannah Critchfield

2:19 p.m. Tampa Bay Times delivery could be impacted

Due to the expected impacts of Tropical Storm Elsa, Tampa Bay Times newspaper subscribers may experience significant delays receiving Wednesday’s printed edition. More information here.

2 p.m. advisory: Elsa strengthens to 70 mph, hurricane warning issued

A hurricane warning has been issued for Tampa Bay as Tropical Storm Elsa continued to strengthen Tuesday afternoon. Elsa had sustained winds of 70 mph as of 1:45 p.m. with higher gusts, according to the National Hurricane Center. That’s just 5 mph below Category 1 hurricane strength.

The storm, regardless of classification, is still on track to make landfall north of Tampa Bay overnight Tuesday into Wednesday morning, the hurricane center said. Governmental meteorologists initially expected Elsa to be a tropical storm by the time it brushed past the Tampa Bay coastline. Now the center projects the storm will be a hurricane in time for landfall.

Read the full story here.

– Josh Fiallo

1:46 p.m. Tampa Bay region under tornado watch

The National Weather Service this afternoon issued a tornado watch for 21 Florida counties, essentially the southern half of the state, including Hillsborough, Pinellas and Manatee.

1:08 p.m. A reminder on stoplights

12:30 p.m. Duke Energy bringing in crews from Carolinas in case of outages

Tampa Bay’s power companies are ready to restore power, if needed, after Tropical Storm Elsa. Duke Energy Florida and Tampa Electric Co. have crews staged and prepared for any damage. “We prepare year-round and continuously modernize the grid to keep the lights on, but tropical weather events like (Tropical Storm) Elsa bring wind-blown debris and flooding that can cause outages,” said Duke Energy’s Florida president Melissa Seixas. “We are prepared for those conditions and encourage our customers to continue monitoring the storm.”

Duke Energy is bringing crews from the Carolinas and Midwest to help restore power after the storm and has staged crews in areas it expects could lose power. Employees also are assessing supplies “to ensure adequate materials are available to make repairs and restore power outages.”

Read more on how to report outages, and what to do in case of a downed power line here.

— Malena Carollo

12:10 p.m. Pinellas officials urge prep for ‘significant’ storm, especially in these areas

Pinellas County residents of low-lying, flood-prone areas should stay with friends or relatives, in a hotel or, as a last resort, one of the county’s two open shelters, County Administrator Barry Burton said at a news conference. Evacuation isn’t mandatory, but is highly recommended for such areas. Everyone else should get ready to shelter in place.

”The storms tonight will be significant,” Burton said. Tropical storm-force winds are expected to begin about 8 p.m., and gusts could hit up to 70 mph, said Cathie Perkins, the county’s emergency management director. Storm surge could reach 3 to 5 feet. Power outages are possible.

Perkins said county officials will especially be keeping an eye on these low-lying or coastal areas: Tarpon Springs sponge docks, the Riviera Bay area, Shore Acres in St. Petersburg, downtown Gulfport, Crystal Beach, Tarpon Woods, Oldsmar, Baypoint and John’s Pass Village, as well as the Caladesi, Sherwood Forest, Mariners Cove and Twin City mobile home parks.

Pinellas deputies will limit access to the beaches between 6 p.m. and 7 a.m., Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said. “This is not the biggest storm we’ve seen,” Gualtieri said, “but it’s also not an insignificant event.” Tuesday’s announcements did bring a glimmer of positive news: unlike Tropical Storm Eta last fall, Elsa will pass by during lower tides.

Read more from the Pinellas County news conference here.

— Kathryn Varn

12:02 p.m. Hernando County issues voluntary evacuation order

A voluntary evacuation order has been issued for coastal zone A, mobile homes, low-lying and flood prone areas throughout Hernando County. A general population, special needs and pet-friendly shelter is open for residents in those zones, located at 800 John Gary Grubbs Blvd. in Brooksville. Those seeking shelter there are asked to bring identification and an air mattress or sleeping bag.

11:42 a.m. Storm closures mounting across Tampa Bay

The list of government facilities, parks, schools and entertainment venues that are closing or adjusting their hours due to Elsa continued to grow throughout the morning. Among the notable closures are all City of Tampa parks, programs and facilities, including summer camps, which are closing at noon today through Wednesday. Schools in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties are closing summer schools early, the University of South Florida made all classes remote, and a number of government buildings are closing early in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. Zoo Tampa, the Florida Aquarium and other attractions have also adjusted their hours due to the storm. See a full and updated list of closures here.

11:29 a.m. Citrus County issues voluntary evacuation order

Citrus County’s Emergency Management Center has issued a voluntary evacuation for the west side of US 19. Due to the potential for strong winds and local flooding, district offices and all school campuses will be closed Wednesday. This includes all sites operating summer school, summer camps, and athletics. Two schools will be used as storm shelters and will open tonight at 6. Renaissance will serve as a special needs shelter, and Lecanto Primary will serve the general population and will be pet friendly.

11 a.m. advisory: Tampa Bay remains in ‘cone of uncertainty’

Elsa entered the Florida Straits on Tuesday after passing over Cuba and was bringing heavy rain and tropical-storm force winds to the Florida Keys, according to the National Hurricane Center. At 11 a.m., Elsa’s center was located about 65 miles west of Key West and 215 miles south of Tampa, and the storm was moving north-northwest at about 10 mph. Elsa’s projected arrival in the region was overnight Tuesday into Wednesday. Tropical storm force winds are expected in the region by Tuesday night. The Hurricane Center said the storm could bring winds to the Tampa Bay area of 39 to 73 mph, cause storm surge of 2 to 4 feet and dump 2 to 6 inches of rain. Conditions will deteriorate starting Tuesday afternoon into Tuesday night as squalls from Elsa’s outer bands move into the area.

– Tony Marrero

10:33 a.m. Elsa’s rain will fall on already-saturated Tampa Bay area

Bay News 9 meteorologist Juli Marquez said Elsa’s rainfall will land on Tampa Bay terrain already saturated by heavy rains in the past couple of weeks. She noted heavy rain on Saturday, July 3 flooded some Tampa streets. “So an additional several inches of rain could cause more flooding of streets and low lying areas, and certainly we have to watch for river flooding,” Marquez said.

– Tony Marrero

10:04 a.m. Rays postpone game due to Elsa

The Tampa Bay Rays postponed their game against Cleveland at Tropicana Field on Tuesday. They will instead play a doubleheader on Wednesday.

– Marc Topkin

8:57 a.m. Governor warns of flash flooding, high winds

Gov. Ron DeSantis warned Floridians Tuesday morning to stay vigilant as Tropical Storm Elsa approached the state’s west coast.

DeSantis said Elsa will be carrying near-hurricane strength winds when it makes landfall overnight Tuesday. He did not expect major changes to the storm’s track, which shows the storm making its way up the west coast of Florida. Most of the heavy rainfall will be east of the center of the storm, he said.

”It’s incredibly lopsided to the east,” DeSantis said.

Parts of north and central Florida, which have received above-average rainfall in recent weeks, could see flash flooding, he said.

”You’re going to see a lot of rain dumped, particularly in the northern part of the state that is already saturated right now,” DeSantis said. “You will see flash flooding conditions in many parts of Florida.”

The state’s Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee has been activated to Level 1, the highest level. Typically, the center would not be under Level 1 for a tropical storm, but it’s been upgraded to help smaller counties that may not be equipped to handle the storm’s impact, DeSantis said.

A small team of emergency officials is in Surfside, where rescuers are searching for victims from the collapse last month of a 12-story oceanfront condo.

8:45 a.m. Tampa International closing at 5 p.m.

The airport announced in a news release that it is suspending commercial operations at 5 p.m. Tuesday for Tropical Storm Elsa. Read more about it here.

8:29 a.m. City of Pinellas Park opens sandbag sites

Pinellas Park residents may use the city’s sandbag sites beginning at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

  • Helen Howarth Park (pre-made sandbags for those who need assistance): 6301 94th Ave. N
  • Pinebrook Park: 7202 118th Ave. N
  • Broderick Park: 6101 66th Ave N.

Residents can get up to 10 sandbags each. They must present a water bill or driver’s license showing Pinellas Park residency. For information, call 727-369-5850.

7:15 a.m. City of Tampa activates hotline

The city of Tampa just announced it is activating its Citizen Information Center Hotline to help residents get prepared. Tampa’s Emergency Hotline will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday to answer questions and share preparedness information. The hotline can be reached at: 1-833-TPA-INFO (872-4636).

Call takers will be available to answer questions in both English and Spanish and help with information on sandbag distribution, finding an evacuation zone, shelter locations, enrolling in AlertTampa, and more.

7:10 a.m. Sandbag sites opening soon

For most local governments, sandbag distribution sites open at 8 a.m. Thousands already have been distributed at pickup sites in the city of Tampa, with one report on Facebook of gates closing Monday on a line of people once supplies ran out. The Tampa sites are open 8 a.m. to noon Tuesday or while supplies last. Here’s a list of where to get sandbags throughout the Tampa Bay area.

• • •

2021 Tampa Bay Times hurricane guide

IT’S STORM SEASON: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane

THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE: Seven hurricane myths that need to go away

BACK-UP YOUR DATA: Protect your data, documents and photos

BUILD YOUR HURRICANE KIT: Gear up — and mask up — before the storm hits

PROTECT YOUR PETS: Here’s how to keep your pets as safe as you

NEED TO KNOW: Click here to find your evacuation zone and shelter

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