Tropical Storm Elsa was making landfall in Florida’s Big Bend region on Wednesday morning, several hours after being downgraded from hurricane status.
The storm’s center was coming ashore in Taylor County with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center’s 11 a.m. advisory.
The hurricane center determined that Elsa was no longer a hurricane as of its 2 a.m. advisory. At that point, the storm was generating maximum sustained winds of 70 mph — just below the 74 mph threshold to be classified as a Category 1 hurricane.
By 5 a.m., the storm’s sustained winds had decreased further, down to about 65 mph, as it moved northwest almost parallel to Florida’s west coast at about 14 mph.
As of 11 a.m., the hurricane center discontinued two warnings that had included parts or all of the Tampa Bay area: a tropical storm warning for Florida’s west coast from Chassahowitzka to Longboat Key and a storm surge warning that extended from the Aucilla River to Longboat Key.
A tropical storm warning remained in effect for the west coast of Florida from Aripeka to the Ochlockonee River, and a storm surge warning was in place from Aripeka to the Aucilla River.
A tornado watch for the Tampa Bay area expired at 8 a.m.
Elsa’s demotion did not change its expected showing in the Tampa Bay region, which included storm surge, gusty winds up to 60 mph and possibly an isolated tornado, said National Weather Service meteorologist Tony Hurt.
Hurt said that a tornado signature was picked up on radar near Lacoochee in East Pasco County around 1 a.m. Wednesday, but Pasco officials have not reported any tornado damage.
Elsewhere in Tampa Bay, gusts stemming from Elsa ranged from 50 to 59 mph in Pinellas County. County officials have reported no injuries or major damage.
Elsa was forecast to turn toward the northeast later Wednesday, followed by a faster northeastward motion by late Thursday, according to the hurricane center. On the current forecast track, Elsa will continue to move inland into Florida this afternoon and across the southeastern and mid-Atlantic United States through Thursday.
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