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Elsa Could Bring Flooding After Landfall

Gov. Ron DeSantis stands at podium with emergency management officials and sign language interpreter.
Gov. Ron DeSantis' Facebook page
Gov. DeSantis says the state is keeping a close eye out for flooding, particularly in North Florida, where Elsa is heading on Wednesday. He says the area was already saturated from other recent storms.

While Elsa's impacts to the Tampa Bay region were minimal, the governor reminded Floridians that hurricane season is just beginning.

Tropical Storm Elsa remained poised to strike the largely rural Big Bend region by late Wednesday morning and bring the potential for flash flooding to rivers across North Florida.

As of 6 a.m. Wednesday, about 26,000 Floridians had lost electricity because of the storm, mostly in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Polk counties.

But Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a morning news conference that the outlook was much-improved from earlier forecasts that showed the system gaining strength as it moved from the Caribbean through the Gulf of Mexico.

“I think one of the things we're going to be looking at in the days ahead is, what's that (the storm) going to do for the rivers and some of the flood risks,” DeSantis said during the news conference at the state Emergency Operations Center. “That area of Florida has been very saturated. So, we're watching that. But by and large, I think, you know, looking at where we were two days ago, we probably fared better than we thought we would.”

At 8 a.m., Elsa was about 31 miles west of Cedar Key, or 115 miles northwest of Tampa, in the gulf. The system, which weakened after growing to hurricane status on Tuesday, was moving north at 14 mph and packing 65 mph sustained winds.

A hurricane warning remained in effect on the West Coast from Chassahowitzka in Citrus County to the Steinhatchee River at the border of Dixie and Taylor counties. The warning includes Cedar Key and other areas of Levy County.

After Elsa makes landfall, the National Hurricane Center anticipates the storm to turn north-northeast late Wednesday afternoon and move rapidly across Georgia, the Carolinas and mid-Atlantic states through Thursday.

DeSantis said more than 10,000 workers were prepared to respond to power outages, and the state is ready to provide assistance where needed, particularly in the Big Bend’s “rural, fiscally constrained” counties.

As the storm remained off the coast early Wednesday, DeSantis described damage from wind and rains as “sporadic.”

The system “wobbled” to the west overnight on Tuesday, minimizing impacts to Tampa, DeSantis said. However, DeSantis cautioned people not to become complacent as the month-old Atlantic storm season heats up, saying this time of year is "really not the major leagues for tropical cyclone activity."

“This was something I think that we've been able to handle fine. But there is going to be more activity,” DeSantis said. “I mean, we don't have anything on the horizon. But people just need to be prepared.”

The governor urged Floridians to "use common sense" in the coming days when moving around the state. He advised residents to avoid driving through standing water or going near downed power lines. He also cautioned against using generators inside homes or garages, noting the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.

A storm-surge warning remained in place from the middle of Longboat Key in Manatee and Sarasota counties to the Aucilla River, which is at the eastern border of Jefferson County.

I cover health care for WUSF and the statewide journalism collaborative Health News Florida. I’m passionate about highlighting community efforts to improve the quality of care in our state and make it more accessible to all Floridians. I’m also committed to holding those in power accountable when they fail to prioritize the health needs of the people they serve.