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Elsa strengthens into a hurricane, the season’s first, and could near the Florida Peninsula by next week

It is the third storm of the season to threaten the US coastline, potentially nearing the Florida Peninsula by next week, including around the site of the deadly Surfside condo collapse.

Elsa’s sustained winds Friday were whipping at 74 mph, with gusts up to 86 mph, according to surface observations from the Meteorological Service of Barbados. The storm was racing west-northwest at 28 miles per hour about 40 miles west of Barbados and 75 miles east of St. Vincent.

It is not expected to strengthen within the next 48 hours, the National Hurricane Center said.

Hurricane warnings are in place for Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. A hurricane watch is in effect for the southern portion of Haiti from Port Au Prince to the southern border with the Dominican Republic.

Haiti, Martinique, Dominica and the southern coast of the Dominican Republic are included in tropical storm warnings. A tropical storm watch is in effect for Grenada and its dependencies, Saba and Saint Eustatius and Jamaica.

Puerto Rico could get up to 3 inches of rain

The storm will head into the eastern Caribbean Sea and move Saturday near the southern coast of Hispaniola. By early Sunday, Elsa is forecast to be near portions of eastern Cuba.

Elsa is expected to bring 3 to 6 inches of rainfall Friday to Windward and southern Leeward Islands, with locally up to 10 inches. Puerto Rico could see 1 to 3 inches through Saturday. Flash flooding and mudslides will be possible in areas experiencing heavy rainfall.

“Across portions of southern Hispaniola and Jamaica, rainfall of 4 to 8 inches with isolated maximum amounts of 12 inches is possible Saturday into Sunday. This rain may lead to scattered flash flooding and mudslides,” according to the hurricane center.

After that, the hurricane center has low confidence in the forecast track. Some weather models predict Elsa turns and stays east of Florida, while others take it into the Gulf of Mexico, leaving the entire Florida Peninsula in the cone of error.

“It is too soon to determine what, if any, impacts could occur there next week given the uncertainty in the long-range forecast,” the hurricane center said.

The Florida Keys and portions of the southern Florida Peninsula early next week face a risk of storm surge, wind and heavy rainfall, the hurricane center warns. How strong Elsa will be next week is also highly uncertain due to the possibility of land interaction and disagreements among the weather models.

CNN’s Monica Garrett contributed to this report.


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