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Elsa's Wind, Rain Take Aim At Florida Peninsula

Gov. Ron DeSantis gives a press conference on Tuesday ahead of Elsa's landfall Wednesday morning.
The Florida Channel
Gov. Ron DeSantis gives a press conference on Tuesday ahead of Elsa's landfall Wednesday morning.

Residents along Gulf Coast bracing for tropical storm

Areas saturated by recent heavy rains could see flash flooding as Tropical Storm Elsa makes her way up the Florida Gulf Coast. She approached the Northern Gulf Coast as a Tropical Storm early Wednesday.

As of 7:30 Wednesday morning, Elsa was about 35 miles west of Cedar Key and is headed for landfall around midday near the Taylor or # Dixie county coasts, according to FPREN. Gusts in excess of 55 mph have been recorded in CedarKey.

“I’m expecting Elsa’s core to remain over the warm Gulf waters [Tues] evening, and that could help it to re-strengthen into a hurricane just prior to landfall on the Nature Coast early on Wednesday,” said Megan Borowski at FPREN – the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network.

“Widespread strong wind gusts and heavy rain will move along the west coast tonight,” she said. “These winds and rain will move into north-central and northeast Florida on Wednesday, and could cause power outages and flash flooding,” said Borowski. “Brief tornadoes may develop anywhere over the peninsula [Tues] night into Wednesday.”

“The state is well-equipped to handle the storm; we have the state emergency response team working around the clock,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has declared states of emergency in 27 counties.

Speaking Tuesday, he said state emergency management has gone to Level-1, which he admits is rare for a tropical storm.

“But given the part of the state that this is likely to impact the most, most of those counties are fiscally-constrained counties,” said the governor. “And so, [state emergency director] Kevin Guthrie and his team are going to provide additional support.”

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Surfside building collapse near Miami, Guthrie says the Emergency Operations Center already has been up and running for more than a year and a half.

“I had personal phone calls with each and every county EM director that are either under a watch or warning; and asked them if there was any needs that they had,” Guthrie said. “Only a handful of counties actually requested some stuff – from a truckload of water to a handful of personnel to help augment their very small programs. We are filling those requests today.”

Other help is also standing by, just in case, they’re needed.

“We did call up about 200 Florida national guardsmen – maybe 250 – we do have them on standby ready to go,” he said. “The majority of them are at our logistical staging center down in Orlando, helping us push commodities out of that warehouse.”

At this point, there are no plans by either Escambia or Santa Rosa Counties to send personnel or supplies to the affected area. Santa Rosa Emergency Director Brad Baker says no such request has been received.

While the western Panhandle is sitting out this one, Gov. DeSantis reminds those in Elsa’s path to monitor her, looking at the big picture.

“Don’t focus on the cone; impacts are expected well outside that area,” said DeSantis. “And if you look at how the storm is, it’s incredibly lopsided to the east. So most of the rainfall is going to be east of the center of the storm.”

Along with the guardsmen, more than 6,000 utility workers are on stand-by. Tropical Storm Elsa can be tracked through FPREN at www.floridapublicmedia.org.