HURRICANE Elsa has prompted a state of emergency in Florida as Governor Ron DeSantis warns of tornadoes and flash flooding.
He has urged Floridians in the southern part of the state to prepare for the system to pummel them with torrential rain and storm surges on Monday.
Gov DeSantis said: “While we continue to provide resources to support the response at Surfside [condo collapse in Miami], impacts from Elsa will begin affecting the Florida Keys and portions of southern Florida as early as Monday.
"All Floridians in the potential path of this storm need to prepare for the risk of isolated tornadoes, storm surge, heavy rainfall and flash flooding.”
He also tweeted: "Florida is working with local authorities to safely secure the Surfside site ahead of the storm."
The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported that the tropical storm is today packing 65mile (100km) winds as it barrels in towards Cuba.
The system battered the southern coasts of Haiti and the Dominican Republic on Saturday, downing trees and blowing off roofs as it sped through the Caribbean, killing at least three people.
On Sunday it was heading for Jamaica and eastern Cuba as forecasters warned of heavy rains, flash flooding and mudslides.
From Sunday into Monday, parts of Cuba could get five to 10 inches of rain, with isolated incidents of 15 inches resulting in "significant flash flooding and mudslides," the NHC said.
In Haiti, authorities had raised the alert level to the maximum red on Saturday morning, warning the entire country to remain vigilant.
In the United States, parts of the Florida Keys were placed under a tropical storm watch on Saturday evening.
Some models show the hurricane could spin into the Gulf or up the Atlantic Coast.
A storm watch is in effect for the Florida Keys from Craig Key westward to Dry Tortugas.
Forecasters predicted rain, storm surges, and strong winds from Elsa to affect the area and the Florida peninsula early this week.
Gov DeSantis issued an Executive Order declaring a state of emergency for 15 counties in the potential path of Elsa.
These cover Charlotte; Citrus; Collier; DeSoto; Hardee; Hernando; Hillsborough; Lee; Levy; Manatee; Miami-Dade; Monroe; Pasco; Pinellas; and Sarasota Counties.
This was issued to give state and local governments ample time, resources and flexibility to prepare for the storm to hit.
Hurricane-related weather would be bad news for the Florida town of Surfside, near Miami, where rescuers are still trying to dig out a collapsed condo building in search of survivors and bodies.
DeSantis told reporters that the part of the building still standing could be demolished before Elsa's arrival to protect the safety of the hundreds of search and rescue workers at the site.
The work could be completed within 36 hours, entailing "minimal work stoppage from the search and rescue teams," he said.
Meanwhile, the state expects to have 2.6million drivers on the roads during the July 4 holiday weekend, according to South Florida's Sun-Sentinel newspaper, citing the AAA auto club.
"It isn't unreasonable for South Floridians to be ready for the potential of a Category 1 hurricane knocking on our door early next week," said Robert Garcia, a meteorologist with the NHC.
Elsa was the Atlantic's first hurricane of the season on Friday.
One death was reported in St. Lucia, according to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency.
Meanwhile, a boy, 15, and a 75-year-old woman died on Saturday in separate events in the Dominican Republic after walls collapsed on them, said the Emergency Operations Center.
Waves 12-to-14 ft (356cm to 427cm) high washed debris ashore in capital Santo Domingo.
The fatalities came a day after Elsa caused widespread damage in several eastern Caribbean islands.
Hardest hit was Barbados, where more than 1,100 people reported damaged houses, including 62 homes that completely collapsed.
Ranchers moved livestock to higher ground as the hurricane on Friday blew roofs off homes, toppled trees and sparked flooding in Barbados.
It then pounded St. Vincent with heavy rain and winds of 85mph (140 kph), which battered banana and plaintain crops.
Elsa's storm surge was expected to raise water levels by as much as one to five feet (30 to 152cm) above normal in some areas.
MORE ON FLORIDA 'RISK'
For Florida, the NHC said in an advisory that "there is an increasing risk of tropical storm conditions, storm surge and rainfall impacts beginning Monday."
These are expected to hit the "Florida Keys, and the southern Florida peninsula and a Tropical Storm watch is now in effect for portions of the Florida Keys.
"This risk will spread northward along the Florida Peninsula through Wednesday, and reach the coasts of Georgia and the Carolinas Wednesday and Thursday.
"However uncertainty in the forecastremains larger than usual due to Elsa's potential interaction with the islands of Hispaniola and Cuba.
"Interests elsewhere in Florida and along the southeast US coast should monitor Elsa's progress and updates to the forecast."
The NHC said today that by Monday, Elsa "is expected to move across central and western Cuba and towards the Florida Straits.
"Elsa is [currently] located about 175miles (280km) southeast of Montego Bay, Jamaica, [with] maximum sustained winds of 65mph (100km/h)
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