Hurricane Elsa is the first hurricane of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season. It is the earliest fifth-named storm on record and is forecast to unleash up to 15 inches of rainfall across parts of southern Hispaniola and Jamaica in the coming days. But what does the latest NOAA report reveal about the storm?
Hurricane Elsa is headed to Haiti amid fears of floods and landslides.
The Category 1 storm has already torn the roofs off buildings, destroyed crops and downed trees and power lines across areas of eastern Caribbean.
Parts of Barbados, Saint Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines are struggling to recover in the wake of the storm – in addition to massive volcanic eruptions which caused damage in April.
Elsa is now racing towards Haiti and the Dominican Republic, with storm forecasts predicting it to move on towards Florida in the coming days.
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The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) is currently tracking Hurricane Elsa as it moves across the Eastern Caribbean Sea.
Hurricane conditions are expected to begin later on Saturday, July 3, in portions of Hispaniola.
As of 5am AST (9am BST), Elsa was located at latitude 16.2 north, longitude 69.0 west, which was 190 miles east-southeast off Isla Beata in the Dominican Republic and 530 miles east-southeast of Kingston in Jamaica.
The Category 1 storm was packing maximum sustained winds of 75mph and moving at 31mph in a west-northwest direction.
The latest report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reads: “Elsa is moving very quickly toward the west-northwest near 31 mph (50 km/h).
“A decrease in forward speed is expected later today and Sunday, followed by a turn toward the northwest Sunday night or Monday.
“On the forecast track, Elsa will move near the southern coast of Hispaniola later today and tonight, and move near Jamaica and portions of eastern Cuba on Sunday.
“By Monday, Elsa is expected to move across central and western Cuba and head toward the Florida Straits.”
The report adds: “Little change in strength is expected today, but slow weakening is forecast on Sunday and Monday when Elsa is expected to be near or over Cuba.”
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Hurricane conditions and dangerous storm surge are expected in regions of Haiti and the Dominican Republic on Saturday and in Jamaica from Sunday.
Outer rain bands from Elsa will impact Puerto Rico from Saturday night, with widespread heavy rain moving into southern Hispaniola and Jamaica on Saturday through to Sunday.
Isolated to scattered flash flooding and mudslides are possible in the region.
Torrential downpours are forecast to impact the Cayman Islands and Cuba through early next week, which could result in significant flooding and mudslides across Cuba.
There is an increasing risk of storm surge, wind and rainfall impacts beginning on Monday in the Florida Keys region.
These severe weather events are likely to spread northwards along the Florida Peninsula on Tuesday.
The latest update from the Meteorological Service Division in Jamaica said the storm will continue its slow strengthening while approaching the central Caribbean.
The warning advised dangerous hurricane effects are expected to affect Jamaica for the next 26 hours or less.
A hurricane warning is in effect for the southern coast of the Dominican Republic from Punta Palenque to the border with Haiti, the southern portion of Haiti from Port Au Prince to the southern border with the Dominican Republic and Jamaica.
A tropical storm warning is in effect for the coast of Haiti north of Port Au Prince and the south coast of the Dominican Republic east of Punta Palenque to Cabo Engano.
A hurricane watch is in effect for the Cuban provinces of Camaguey, Granma, Guantanamo, Holguin, Las Tunas and Santiago de Cuba.
A tropical storm watch is in effect for the north coast of the Dominican Republic from Cabo Engano to Bahia de Manzanillo, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.