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20% chance Elsa could reach southeast SC, weather service warns

  • Updated
11 p.m. July 3 - Elsa Cone

Elsa was downgraded to a tropical storm the morning of July 3 as it barreled through the Caribbean Islands. Provided/National Weather Service

Elsa was downgraded to a tropical storm on July 3 as it barreled through the Caribbean, where forecasters warned near-hurricane conditions and storm surges threatened to cause mudslides and flash flooding. 

At 11 p.m., the tropical storm was about 175 miles east southeast of Montego Bay, Jamaica, and 205 miles southeast of Cabo Cruz, Cuba, according to the National Hurricane Center.

It was moving west-northwest at 17 mph with 65 mph winds and was expected to decrease in forward speed through July 4.

The Charleston Office of the National Weather Service reported that the chance of seeing sustained tropical storm force winds of 34 knots or greater in southeast South Carolina increased July 3 to between 20 percent and 30 percent.

The worst conditions of the storm would most likely be experienced in the Lowcountry late July 6 into late July 7. 

While the threats for some impact increased, there is still a great deal of uncertainty about the track and, especially, the intensity of Elsa. Depending on those factors, Elsa could potentially bring heavy rainfall, strong winds, tornadoes, storm surge inundation, large seas and dangerous surf conditions, the local weather service office said. 

Elsa was moving near the southwestern peninsula of Haiti the evening of July 3 and near Jamaica and portions of eastern Cuba on July 4, the weather service said. The Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispanola with Haiti, has discontinued the tropical storm warning and the tropical storm watch. The hurricane warning for the southern portion of Haiti from Port-au-Prince to the southern border with the Dominican Republic was replaced with a tropical storm warning.

By July 5, Elsa is expected to move across central and western Cuba and head toward the Florida Straits. Elsa is forecast to move near or over portions of the west coast of Florida on July 6.

Elsa's wind speeds were recorded July 3 as reaching 70 mph with higher gusts, slightly less than speeds necessary for a category 1 hurricane. Tropical-storm-force winds extend 125 miles from the storm's center.

Widespread heavy rain will move across southern Hispaniola and Jamaica into July 4, where isolated to scattered flash flooding and mudslides will be possible, according to the weather service. 

Heavy rain will impact the Cayman Islands and Cuba on July 4 into July 5, resulting in significant flooding and mudslides. The storm is expected to gradually weaken during that period. 

There is an increasing risk of tropical storm conditions, storm surge and rainfall impacts beginning July 5 in the Florida Keys and southern Florida Peninsula, which will spread northward along the Florida Peninsula through July 7.

A tropical storm watch is in effect for the Florida Keys from Craig Key westward to the Dry Tortugas. 

The risk will reach the coasts of Georgia and the Carolinas July 7 and July 8, but uncertainty in the forecast remains larger than normal due to Elsa's potential interaction with the islands of Hispaniola and Cuba, the weather service reported.  

Residents in Florida and the southeast U.S. coast should monitor Elsa's progress, according to the weather service. 

Reach Steve Garrison 843-607-1052. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGarrisonDT.

Steve Garrison covers breaking news and public safety. He's a native of Chicago who previously covered courts and crime in Wisconsin, New Mexico and Indiana. He studied journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the University of Missouri.

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