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Elsa weakened to a tropical storm Wednesday as it threatened Florida’s northern Gulf Coast. The storm will bring rain and gusty winds to the Carolinas this week.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Elsa weakened to a tropical storm as it threatened Florida’s northern Gulf Coast Wednesday after raking past the Tampa Bay area with gusty winds and heavy rain.
As of 8 a.m. Wednesday, Elsa is about 35 miles west of Cedar Key, Florida, with sustained winds of 65 mph. The National Weather Service predicts Elsa will continue to move northward, almost parallel to Florida’s west coast with heavy rains and gusty winds spreading inland.
Elsa is expected to make landfall along the coast sometime around 9 a.m. Wednesday. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis urged people in the area to take caution and stay out of the storm.
“We ask that you please take it seriously,” DeSantis said Tuesday. “This is not a time to joyride because we do have hazardous conditions out there.”
As the storm moves inland, it is predicted to move northeast across southern Georgia before approaching the South Carolina and North Carolina coast Thursday. By Friday, Elsa will move back into the Atlantic where it could strengthen back into a tropical storm.
As for the Charlotte area, the First Warn Storm Team predicts the heaviest rain will be south and east of the Queen City. First Warn forecaster Larry Sprinkle said Elsa’s rain will begin to move in early Thursday, possibly around 2 a.m.
“You’ll start to see showers move up north along Interstate 77,” Sprinkle said. “By 5 a.m., heavy rain will cover the entire area, from Taylorsville to Statesville, down to Charlotte and all the way down to Chester, South Carolina.”
By 9 a.m., Sprinkle said the heaviest rain will be north and east of Charlotte and along I-85. Areas like Albemarle, Salisbury and Greensboro will be at risk for the heaviest rain at that time.
Elsa is expected to continue on that northeasterly track before moving into Raleigh Thursday afternoon and eventually to the Atlantic Ocean. Areas along the Carolina coast could see up to 4″ of rainfall, with some locations east of Charlotte, including Rockingham and Wadesboro seeing a possibility of 2″.
While localized flooding is certainly possible, the risk of flash flooding is low and looks to be contained across our southern and southeastern counties Wednesday and Thursday.
For the most part, Elsa won’t be a big issue in Charlotte. While it will be breezy at times across southern and southeastern counties, the chance for tropical-storm-force winds is very low.
Stick with the First Warn Storm Team for the latest on Elsa and its impact on the Carolinas.