Charlotte, Raleigh now fall on western edge of Tropical Storm Elsa’s path. The latest.

National Hurricane Center

How much punch Elsa brings to Charlotte, Raleigh and the Carolinas this week largely depends on how much Cuba takes out of the tropical storm on Monday afternoon — and how much time Elsa gets in the Gulf of Mexico to recover.

As of 1:30 p.m. Monday, the storm and its 65 mph winds were blowing past Cuba, on track to cross onto the mainland United States between Tampa and Tallahassee, Florida, sometime on Wednesday morning, according to Robbie Munroe, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Greenville-Spartanburg.

The storm would then pivot north by northeast, Munroe said. That would take it through the Midlands of South Carolina and across the North Carolina line sometime Thursday morning.

At the moment, both Charlotte and the Triangle fall on the western edge of the most likely storm path. In fact, as of now Charlotte may sit just outside it, Munroe says.

According to the the 5 p.m. Monday update by the National Hurricane Center, Elsa continued to move west from Cuba into the Gulf of Mexico. How long it stays there could be key. The more time the storm travels over the Gulf’s warm waters, the more likely it is to regain strength.

As of now, Elsa is expected to have been downgraded to a tropical depression by the time it reaches the Carolinas. The heaviest rains and strongest winds are expected to stay to the southeast of the Charlotte metropolitan area with no more than 3/4 of an inch of rainfall predicted for the city at this time.

Raleigh and Durham remain inside the most likely storm track and have a greater chance for heavier rainfall and gusty winds, Munroe said. Forecasters say central and eastern North Carolina could get between 2 and 4 inches of rain.

Tropical rain bands could begin reaching Charlotte by Wednesday afternoon, a little later in the day for the Triangle.

Staff writer Joe Marusak contributed.

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Joe Marusak has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1989 covering the people, municipalities and major news events of the region, and was a news bureau editor for the paper. He currently reports on breaking news.

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