Tropical Hurricane Elsa: Major Atlantic system may stall week 2 of rescue ops at Surfside collapse

Tropical Storm Elsa strengthened into a hurricane on July 2 and is expected to arrive in South Florida by July 4 potentially affecting still standing portion of Surfside condo.

                            Tropical Hurricane Elsa: Major Atlantic system may stall week 2 of rescue ops at Surfside collapse
Tropical Hurricane Elsa is expected to arrive in South Florida on July 4 (Representational Image - Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Update - Elsa has strengthened into a hurricane on Friday, July 2. Observations indicate Elsa's maximum sustained winds have increased to 75 mph.

Tropical Storm Elsa formed on Thursday, July 1. According to CSU meteorologist Philip Klotzbach, Elsa has broken a record of being the earliest fifth-named storm in the Atlantic. It broke the record set by Edouard which formed on July 6, 2020. A forecast from 11 pm on July 1 shows the majority of Florida inside Elsa's 5-day cone. 

The National Hurricane Center shared a couple of key messages regarding Elsa on their Twitter page. "Tropical storm conditions expected to begin in the Windward Islands and the southern Leeward Islands early Friday," they wrote in the caption. According to the Center, "There is a risk of storm surge, wind, and rainfall impacts in the Florida Keys and portions of the Florida Peninsula early next week. However, the forecast uncertainty remains larger than usual due to Elsa's potential interaction with the Greater Antilles this weekend. Interests in Florida should monitor Elsa's progress and updates to the forecast." The wind speed has increased to 50 mph according to the update. In the last few days of June, a "life threatening" tornado ripped through Woodridge in Chicago causing colossal damage. 


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Tropical Storm Elsa could stall rescue ops at Surfside condo 

The death toll at Champlain Towers in Surfside, Miami reached 18 on July 1 as rescue efforts enter week 2.  The intensity of Elsa's impact on South Florida is yet to be determined but out of safety concerns, the rescue work at the Surfside condo could be suspended. According to Palm Beach Post, Elsa’s last distance to Surfside was 2,344 miles.

There are concerns about the storm could impact the still-standing portions of the building and make it fall. All residents in the state have been advised to monitor the storm and prepare themselves accordingly and Elsa is said to approach South Florida by evening on Sunday, July 4. The National Weather Service will be on-site from Friday, July 2 to monitor and offer the latest updates, according to Miami-Dade mayor Daniella Levine Cava. 

Search and rescue personnel work in the rubble of the 12-story condo tower that crumbled to the ground during a partially collapse of the building on June 24, 2021 in Surfside, Florida.  counties. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

FEMA structural engineer Scott Nacheman said they will continue work only on three of the nine grids because of unstable rubble and loose concrete on the upper floors. “We still can’t go in the collapsed area, it’s too dangerous,” said Levine Cava. Miami-Dade's director of emergency management had said on July 1 they already have plans ready in the event of a tropical storm or hurricane. Miami-Dade Emergency Management Director Frank Rollason said before Elsa was declared a tropical storm, "Should a tropical storm or hurricane be forecasted, we will make arrangements for our first responders to be located in a safe location within a sensible time frame to allow them to stop operations and locate their equipment in a safe location. Once the storm clears and it is once again safe to return to the tasks at hand they would do so. Those safe-harbor plans are being developed as I write this."

TJ Lyon, chair of Florida's Statewide Emergency Response Plan said Surfside building will barely be able to sustain a tropical storm. "Any bad significant wind could potentially bring down the remaining part of that building," Lyon said. Governor Ron DeSantis had told reporters that the state was monitoring the storm. "We are not expecting any impact through Saturday, but obviously the state meteorological team is actively monitoring the storm and will continue to provide updates," he said