Tropical Storm Elsa brings heavy rain and flooding to Florida, Southeast
Elsa slightly weakened to a tropical storm Wednesday as it made landfall along Florida’s west coast, bringing heavy rain, wind gusts and the possibility of tornadoes in some areas.
Elsa briefly reached hurricane strength, but moved ashore as a tropical storm, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. The storm made landfall late Wednesday morning in the Big Bend region of the state with maximum sustained winds clocking 65 mph.
At 4:30 p.m. ET, Elsa moved inland and was about 75 miles southeast of Tallahassee with sustained winds of 50 mph.
By 9:00 p.m. ET, Elsa moved Northeast impacting Georgia and South Carolina.
A suspected tornado touched down at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia Wednesday, causing multiple injuries and damage, the naval base confirmed to FOX Television Stations.
"There are reports of multiple injuries and damage to multiple recreational vehicles in the base RV park, and also reports of damage to buildings and structures on the installation," the base wrote on social media.
Radar issued by the National Weather Service (NWS)
According to Lt. Stewart Phillip, the tornado touched down at approximately 5:50 p.m. local time.
"As many as 10 people have been injured," Phillip, a commander at Submarine Group 10 at the naval base, told FOX Television Stations. "All of those injured have been classified as non-serious or minor injuries."
The base said many of those injured were transported to local medical facilities for treatment.
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There has been no damage to any sensitive military asset or submarine.
Forecasters said the storm would race across inland North Florida bringing heavy rains and wind, then move north to Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia before heading out in the Atlantic Ocean later this week.
"Although the center of Elsa is expected to remain inland of the coastline from Georgia through the Carolinas during the next day or two, tropical storm conditions are expected along portions of the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina tonight," the National Weather Service reported Wednesday evening.
Tornado warnings were also issued Wednesday morning in several northern Florida counties, including the Gainesville area. The storm was also set to bring heavy rain and winds across the northern part of the state as it eventually turns northeast.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a morning news conference that no major structural damage or deaths from the storm had been reported in the state.
"Clearly, this could have been worse," the Republican governor said, adding that many storm-related deaths come after the system passes. "Be very careful when you're working to clear debris," he said.
The Tampa Bay area was no longer under a hurricane warning, but forecasters warned of strong winds and the possibility of flash flooding. FOX 13 Meteorologist Tony Sadiku said Polk to Desoto counties faced a flood risk after a larger outer band of the storm brought a tropical downpour and rain totals of about 10 inches. The threat of flooding was expected to continue into the afternoon hours and maybe even for a couple of days, according to Sadiku.
There remained the danger of life-threatening storm surge along portions of the West Coast of Florida, and a storm surge warning was in effect for portions of the coast, including Tampa Bay.
Tampa International Airport had suspended operations Tuesday evening but resumed flights Wednesday morning after assessing the property for storm damage.
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Forecasters said tornadoes were also possible in northern Florida and up into Georgia and South Carolina.
"A few tornadoes are possible today and tonight across northern Florida and southeastern Georgia into eastern South Carolina," the National Hurricane Center said in its 11 a.m. advisory. "The tornado threat should shift to the eastern Carolinas and far southeast Virginia on Thursday."
The storm also complicated the search for victims and any potential survivors of the June 24 collapse of a condo tower in South Florida, which left at least 46 people dead and 94 unaccounted for.
Crews on Wednesday continued to search in the rubble of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida, just north of Miami Beach. Lightning has forced some rescuers to pause this week, but the storm’s heaviest rain and winds spared Surfside.
On Friday, Elsa caused widespread damage on several Caribbean islands, killing at least three people.
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This story was reported from Cincinnati.