Elsa strengthened into the first hurricane of the 2021 season Friday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center’s 8 a.m. update. Its five-day projection continues to include a projected landfall in Florida on Tuesday morning.
Elsa, cutting into the Caribbean on Friday morning, is expected to begin threatening tropical-storm conditions over the Lesser Antilles, according to the National Hurricane Center’s 5 a.m. update.
The storm’s maximum sustained winds increased to 75 mph while Elsa remains about 20 miles east-southeast of Barbados moving west-northwest at a quick 28 mph, the NHC said.
An even faster motion to the west-northwest is expected over the next 24 to 36 hours. Elsa’s tropical-storm-force winds reach up to 140 miles from its center. Radar data show Elsa has developed a small inner core as the storm slowly continues to strengthen.
Elsa’s hurricane development is 39 days ahead of when meteorologists typically observe the first hurricane formation of the season; which on average usually happens on Aug. 10, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s database.
A U.S. Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft was scheduled to fly into the storm Friday morning to collect data and provide a better estimate of Elsa’s intensity and structure.
The system was forecast to pass near or over portions of the Windward Islands or the southern Leeward Islands on Friday, move into the eastern Caribbean Sea late Friday and Friday night, and move near the southern coast of Hispaniola on Saturday.
A hurricane warning is in effect for Barbados and St. Lucia.
A hurricane watch is in effect for the southern portion of Haiti from Port Au Prince to the southern border with the Dominican Republic.
A tropical-storm warning is in effect for Martinique, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the southern coast of Dominican Republic from Cabo Engano to the border with Haiti, and the entire coast of Haiti.
A tropical storm watch is in effect for Grenada and its dependencies, Saba and Sint Eustatius, and Jamaica.
As of the 5 a.m. update, Central Florida is still part of Elsa’s cone of uncertainty. The storm is expected to slow down after some land interaction in Caribbean, and is projected to reach South Florida by Tuesday morning. Elsa’s eye is predicted to be passing over Central Florida by early Wednesday, according to the NHC. However, there is significant doubt in the track’s forecast over the next five days, the NHC said. Discrepancies in the track have made meteorologists’ confidence in the projection “lower than usual,” the NHC said.
Maureen McCann, Spectrum News 13 meteorologist, said one of the biggest reasons storm experts are in doubt is because of the possible interaction with land.
“Often time these storms move over some of these islands that have high terrain the storm can get ripped apart,” McCann said. “Some models are taking that into consideration and either weakening the storm altogether, but then some of our other reliable models do take it to the west of Florida next Tuesday.”
Because of land interaction with the Caribbean islands, meteorologists won’t have a clear indicator of Elsa’s future until Sunday, McCann said.
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