TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — All eyes are on the tropics and Tropical Storm Elsa heading into the start of next week and many people living in Tampa Bay are already wondering how the storm could potentially impact our area.
The latest storm track from the National Hurricane Center was released at 5 a.m. this morning. It shows most of Florida – including Tampa Bay – in the cone of uncertainty. That means tropical impacts are possible in our area so, if you haven’t yet, it’s a good idea to make sure any preparations for tropical weather are done this weekend.
However, the long-range forecast uncertainty is higher than normal with Elsa, according to the NHC, because the system still will interact with the mountainous islands of Hispaniola and Cuba throughout today. The mountains will weaken the storm as it passes over them, however Elsa will still be feeding off the warm deep waters near Cuba. This means Elsa would likely remain a tropical storm as it impacts Florida.
While the Gulf waters will be warm as Elsa moves over them, strong upper-level winds will help to limit reorganization after it moves over Cuba.
So what impacts are on the table for Tampa Bay – IF the current track sticks? Here’s what our Max Defender 8 team is thinking but it’s important to note this is very early thinking and any changes to the track will change this:
If Elsa’s current track sticks, tropical rain bands could begin by Monday in Tampa. While it’s hard to say how much rain we could see, our ground is saturated from recent rain which means flooding could be a minor issue even with minimal rain.
Strong winds are also possible if Elsa remains a tropical storm or weak hurricane. Wind speeds between 40 to 80 mph are not out of the question.
The saturated grounds here in Tampa Bay also mean it won’t take much wind to topple a few trees, which could lead to power outages. If there’s a tree nearby that could potentially fall on your home, you might want to consider riding out the storm somewhere else.
If the center of Elsa stays offshore of Tampa Bay, storm surge will be a concern. It’s too early to talk specific surge heights but the most recent track shift to the west does keep this a possibility.
If the center of the system moves onshore to the south of Tampa Bay, storm surge won’t really be a concern because the wind direction will be offshore during the heigh of the storm.
Similar to storm surge, if the center of Elsa stays to the west, a few isolated tornadoes will be possible. That would place most of our area in the right front quadrant that tends to produce quick spin ups.
The bottom line is we’re in the midst of hurricane season and it’s always good to be prepared and have a plan in place for tropical weather. Now is the time to prepare, not panic.
Elsa still has obstacles to face before potentially reaching Florida, so a lot can change between now and Monday. Keep an eye on the forecast throughout the weekend and check back in with our Max Defender 8 meteorologists for updates.