Tropical Storm Elsa is speeding toward the Caribbean, where it is expected to bring heavy rain and strong winds to several islands. Elsa is the earliest forming fifth named Atlantic storm on record in the satellite era (since 1966). Here are some key facts about this system and its potential impacts.
Elsa was centered about 70 mph miles east-southeast of Barbados as of early Friday, July 2, 2021. It had maximum sustained winds of 60 mph and was moving west at 28 mph.
Tropical storm warnings have been issued for parts of the Windward Islands, where tropical storm force conditions (winds of at least 39 mph) are expected on Friday. A hurricane watch has also been posted for southern portions of Hispaniola.
Elsa will then move across the central and western Caribbean over the weekend. Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Hispaniola, Jamaica and Cuba might see heavy rainfall and strong winds from this system during that time.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) says rainfall totals of 3 to 6 inches with isolated totals up to 10 inches are possible in the Windward and southern Leeward Islands Friday. This could lead to isolated flash flooding and mudslides.
The future of Elsa regarding potential U.S. impact remains very uncertain next week. Residents of the Caribbean and Florida should track the progress of Elsa closely through the holiday weekend.
Elsa also caused impacts in other parts of the U.S. and the Caribbean islands. The storm made landfall near Steinhatchee, Florida, on the morning of Wednesday, July 7, bringing heavy rainfall, intense gusts of wind, and storm surge to the Florida coast. Multiple tornado touchdowns occurred from Florida north through New Jersey on July 7-8, causing damage to homes and businesses.
In the Caribbean, Elsa strengthened into a category 1 hurricane while approaching Barbados on July 2, but then weakened the following day before passing north of Jamaica. Strong winds on Barbados caused property damage to homes and businesses. Turning northwest, Elsa moved across Cuba on July 5 causing flash flooding and mudslides.
NASA’s Earth-observing satellites collected data on Elsa that scientists used to create near real-time products to support disaster response. For example, NASA / JAXAâs GPM satellite frequently observed the structure of precipitation within Elsa, and the Integrated Multi-Satellite Retrievals for GPM ( IMERG) product mapped its intense rainfall rates over time to provide situational awareness for potential flood events.
As Elsa moved away from the U.S., recovery efforts began in the affected areas. In Florida, power outages affected more than 26,000 customers at the peak of the storm, and several roads were flooded or blocked by fallen trees and debris. One person was killed when a tree fell on his car in Jacksonville. In Georgia and South Carolina, more than 75,000 customers lost power due to Elsa’s winds and rain. In North Carolina, a tornado damaged several homes and businesses in Boiling Spring Lakes.
In the Northeast, Elsa brought heavy rain and gusty winds that caused flash flooding, power outages, and travel disruptions. More than 100,000 customers lost electricity in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. Several roads and subway stations were flooded in New York City, where a state of emergency was declared. In Rhode Island, a wind gust of 71 mph was recorded at Block Island. In New Hampshire and Maine, several roads were washed out or damaged by floodwaters.
In the Caribbean, Elsa left a trail of destruction and disruption in several islands. In Barbados, where Elsa was the first hurricane to hit in 65 years, more than 1,100 homes were damaged or destroyed, and several power lines and trees were downed. In St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, and Grenada, roofs were blown off, crops were damaged, and water supply was affected by Elsa’s winds and rain. In Haiti and the Dominican Republic, two people were killed and several others were injured by flooding and landslides triggered by Elsa. In Cuba, more than 180,000 people were evacuated from coastal areas due to the risk of storm surge and flooding.