Elsa Weakens Yet Prepares to Batter Jamaica and Eastern Cuba

Elsa, the Atlantic’s first hurricane of 2021, has weakened to a tropical storm and will deteriorate further over eastern Cuba and Jamaica on Sunday after lashing Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Reconnaissance aircraft found Elsa a little weaker early Sunday, the National Hurricane Center said. Conditions are expected to deteriorate in eastern Cuba and Jamaica later this morning.

Rainfall of 4 to 8 inches is possible across portions of southern Haiti and Jamaica on Sunday, with isolated maximum amounts of 15 inches. The rain may lead to scattered flash flooding and mudslides. The storm has killed at least three people across the Caribbean.

Heavy rain will then impact the Cayman Islands and Cuba Sunday into Monday, resulting in significant flooding and mudslides over Cuba. A hurricane watch is in effect for the Cuban provinces of Camaguey, Granma, Guantanamo, Holguin, Las Tunas, and Santiago de Cuba.

By early Sunday the storm’s sustained winds were about 65 miles (100 km) per hour, down from 75 mph on Saturday. The storm was about 45 miles east-northeast of Kingston, Jamaica, and 145 miles southeast of Cabo Cruz, Cuba, in a 8 am EDT advisory.

By Monday the storm is expected to move across central and western Cuba and head toward the Florida Strait, before moving near or over portions of the west coast of Florida on Tuesday.

Elsa is the season’s fifth Atlantic storm, and would be the third to strike the U.S. A record 30 storms were named across the Atlantic in 2020, with an all-time high of 12 hitting the U.S. The storm comes on the heels of a record heat wave that is searing Canada and the Northwest U.S., and as extreme temperatures smother China, Eastern Europe and elsewhere.

Elsa Weakens Yet Prepares to Batter Jamaica and Eastern Cuba

Elsa was the strongest storm to hit the eastern Caribbean in July since Emily in 2005, Phil Klotzbach, lead author of the Colorado State University seasonal hurricane forecast, said in a tweet. He also noted it’s the farthest east an Atlantic hurricane has formed this early since 1933.

​Elsa formed between the Caribbean and Africa, a significant factor because storms originating there before August often mean that the hurricane season as a whole could be quite active, according to Ryan Truchelut, chief meteorologist at WeatherTiger LLC in Tallahassee, Florida.

“This is not a normal threat in terms of timing and location,” Truchelut said. “There’s really only a handful of historical precedents for a threat coming out of the tropical Atlantic or eastern Caribbean in early July.”

Elsa developed even faster than the fifth storm in last year’s record season, which has caught the attention of meteorologists.

“The fact that we’re already ahead of last year’s torrid pace of tropical storms is somewhat concerning,” said Randy Adkins, a senior meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. Having five storms this soon in the year “is confirming to us we were on track with a busier season on average.”

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