After battering Cuba with drenching rain and strong winds, tropical storm Elsa was moving towards Florida late Tuesday, where it was expected to strengthen into a hurricane as rescue workers pressed on with their search of the debris of a Miami condominium that collapsed almost two weeks ago.
The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported at 5:00 pm that the storm was closing in on the Florida Keys, the archipelago at the state’s southern tip, and could build into a Category One hurricane.
With a possible storm surge of up to five feet (1.5 meters), Tampa airport suspended commercial flights from 5:00 pm Tuesday until at least 10:00 am Wednesday.
“If you are asked to evacuate, please leave,” she said, reminding people that there were emergency shelters ready to accommodate them.
Over 100,000 people were evacuated from coastal or low-lying areas as the storm cut through Cuba, with the nation’s meteorological institute Insmet reporting winds of up to 100 kilometers (62 miles) per hour.
In Surfside, on Florida’s east coast, workers on Sunday used explosives in the controlled demolition of the still-standing portion of a collapsed condo building — a job accelerated for fear Elsa might topple the structure.
On Monday, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told CNN that officials were “very hopeful” that, with Elsa’s current path, they would not have to pause search-and-rescue efforts after all.
Since excavations began over a week ago, more than two ton of rubble have been removed from the site.
States of alarm were sounded in the provinces of Havana, Mayabeque and Artemisa as thousands were evacuated from their homes — efforts complicated by Covid-19 as Cuba endured its worst chapter yet of the pandemic.
Shops closed in Havana and driving was restricted to civil defense vehicles.
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel said late Sunday on Twitter that there had only been damage to farm crops.