Weakening Elsa makes landfall but Florida spared significant damage

The tropical storm had hurricane status before losing strength as it approached the coast.

Weakening Elsa makes landfall but Florida spared significant damage

A weakened Tropical Storm Elsa dumped rain across Florida’s northern Gulf Coast but appears to have spared the state significant damage and widespread power outages.

Elsa wobbled through the Gulf of Mexico, briefly reaching hurricane strength, but moved ashore as a tropical storm, the US National Hurricane Centre said Wednesday in its 11am advisory.

The storm made landfall in lightly populated Taylor County with a maximum sustained winds clocking 65mph (105kph).

Tornado warnings were issued in several northern Florida counties, including the Gainesville area, on Wednesday morning.

Heavy rain and gusty winds are expected across northern Florida once the storm makes an expected turn to the northeast.

Some flooding is also expected in the region, where the ground is already saturated from heavy rain late last week.

Governor Ron DeSantis said at a morning news conference that no major structural damage or deaths from the storm had been reported.

“Clearly, this could have been worse,” the Republican governor said, adding that many storm-related deaths come after the system passes.

“Be very careful when you’re working to clear debris,” he said.

Tropical storm warnings were cancelled for Cape Coral and Fort Myers.

A jogger makes his way along Bayshore Blvd., in Tampa (John Raoux/AP)
A jogger makes his way along Bayshore Blvd., in Tampa (John Raoux/AP)

Tampa was no longer under a hurricane warning, but weather forecasters warned of tropical storm conditions, including strong winds and flash flooding.

Mr DeSantis said there were up to 26,000 customers without power in the region, most of them in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Polk counties that surround Tampa Bay.

Crews were working to restore electricity and Mr DeSantis said no hospitals reported an outage, which has been a major problem in past storms.

“We’re fortunate to see minimal damage & flooding this morning, but it’s important to keep safety top of mind.

“Be aware of your surroundings & don’t drive through flood waters,” Tampa mayor Jane Castor said via Twitter.

Athos Karistinos, 13, center, and his brother, Anastasios Karistinos, 16, emerge from their family’s gift shop, Sponge Diver Supply, after helping their father fortify the windows and doors at the business on Dodecanese Blvd at the Tarpon Springs, Florida (Douglas R. Clifford/AP)
Athos Karistinos, 13, center, and his brother, Anastasios Karistinos, 16, emerge from their family’s gift shop, Sponge Diver Supply, after helping their father fortify the windows and doors at the business on Dodecanese Blvd at the Tarpon Springs, Florida (Douglas R. Clifford/AP)

Schools and government offices in the Tampa area were closed and most public events postponed as Elsa approached on Tuesday.

Ms Castor, however, predicted hockey’s Stanley Cup finals game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens would be played as scheduled on Wednesday night.

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