Winds from Elsa caused a tree to fall on two cars during an afternoon commute in Jacksonville, Florida, killing one person, according to Capt. Eric Prosswimmer with the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department. A possible tornado touched down in the city Wednesday evening, according to Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry.
“Both of these tornadoes were spawned in the outer bands on the eastern side of Tropical Storm Elsa, where tornadoes are most common with landfalling tropical systems,” CNN meteorologist Taylor Ward said.
A tornado watch was in place for northeastern Florida and southwestern Georgia until 8 p.m. A new tornado watch has just been issued for portions of Georgia and South Carolina, including Savannah and Charleston. This watch is in place until 5 a.m. ET as Tropical Storm Elsa could trigger additional tornadoes into the overnight hours, Ward said.
Elsa is expected to weaken to tropical depression by Thursday, when it reaches the Carolinas before heading to the mid-Atlantic coast. Elsa “will likely become a tropical storm again” on Friday as the center moves along or just off the eastern seaboard where it could threaten New York City and Boston on Friday, according to the NHC.
Elsa brings trees and power lines down
A few dozen miles from landfall, part of a roof’s surface had been lifted from a motel on Florida’s Cedar Key on Wednesday, photos taken by motel guest Jonathan Riches showed.
“Winds starting howling in the middle of the night, and rain starting pounding the windows,” Riches told CNN, adding about the conditions: “Never seen anything like this before in my life.”
High winds in already-saturated areas of northern Florida and southern Georgia could topple trees and power lines, CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said Wednesday morning.
“We’ve had a lot of rainfall this past month. If you get winds at 40 mph or 50 mph, some of these trees are going to be falling down,” Meyers said.
Roads also were flooding Wednesday morning in parts of southwestern Florida, where Elsa’s outer bands still were dropping rain. This included the Fort Myers area, where some roads were impassable, the National Weather Service said.
More than 4.9 million people were under a tropical storm warning across parts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina on Wednesday afternoon. A tropical storm watch has also been issued up north in parts of New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Counties and utilities prepare ahead of storm
As Elsa approached, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry urged residents to be cautious, since flooding and wind damage were possible.
“We don’t want people to get overconfident” and drive into any flooding or miss any downed power lines, Curry told CNN Wednesday.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis expanded his state of emergency declaration Tuesday to include 33 counties as local, state and utility resources prepared for the storm.
The Florida National Guard has activated 60 guardsmen and is prepared to activate more for storm-related operations such as high-water rescues or humanitarian assistance, it said.
Shelters were opened in at least five counties Tuesday, and two counties issued voluntary evacuation orders.
Crews work in Surfside; boat capsizes off Key West
Though Elsa’s most intense effects are being felt in western Florida, outer bands also sent rain and winds to parts of the state’s eastern side.
CNN’s Hollie Silverman, David Williams, Dave Hennen, Monica Garrett, Amanda Watts, Gregory Lemos and Rebekah Riess contributed to this report.