By Jeff Kearns (Bloomberg) —
Elsa, the first hurricane of the 2021 Atlantic storm season, is bearing down on the Caribbean as extreme weather continues to batter the Northern Hemisphere.
Hurricane Elsa is about 5 miles (10 kilometers) north of St. Vincent, heading toward Haiti and Cuba, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in an advisory Friday. The storm has maximum sustained winds of 75 miles per hour and is moving at 29 mph. Elsa is on track to strike Florida by Tuesday, but it may weaken and change course as it moves over Cuba.
“There is risk of storm surge, wind, and rainfall impacts in the Florida Keys and portions of the Florida Peninsula early next week,” Jack Beven, a senior hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center, said in an advisory. “However, the forecast uncertainty remains larger than usual due to Elsa’s potential interaction with the Greater Antilles this weekend.”
Elsa is the year’s fifth named Atlantic storm, the earliest that the region has seen so many since modern records start 1966 and another sign that this hurricane season will be unusually busy. It comes after a record heat wave that continues to sear Canada and the Northwest U.S. and as extreme temperatures have smothered China, Eastern Europe and elsewhere.
Elsa formed between the Caribbean and Africa, a significant factor because storms originating there before August often mean that the hurricane season as a whole could be quite active, according to Ryan Truchelut, chief meteorologist at WeatherTiger LLC in Tallahassee, Florida.
“This is not a normal threat in terms of timing and location,” Truchelut said. “There’s really only a handful of historical precedents for a threat coming out of the tropical Atlantic or eastern Caribbean in early July.”
Hurricane warnings were issued for Barbados, which reported a wind gust to 86 mph, as well as St. Vincent and the Grenadines and St. Lucia. A hurricane watch is in effect for southern Haiti.
Elsa will move across the eastern Caribbean late Friday, and reach Haiti and the Dominican Republic Saturday. By Sunday, it is likely to be near Jamaica and part of eastern Cuba, according to the hurricane center.
“The fact that we’re already ahead of last year’s torrid pace of tropical storms is somewhat concerning,” said Randy Adkins, a senior meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. Having five storms so soon in the year “is confirming to us we were on track with a busier season on average.”
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