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Elsa regains hurricane status as Florida prepares

5 Lowcountry counties under Tropical Storm Watch
Published: Jul. 5, 2021 at 12:44 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 6, 2021 at 10:24 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Elsa had strengthened back into a Category 1 hurricane Tuesday night as it heads toward landfall in Florida.

Air Force Hurricane Hunters were on the way to investigate the storm shortly before 8 p.m., according to the National Hurricane Center.

A tropical storm watch is in effect for Charleston, Berkeley, Coastal Colleton, Beaufort and Jasper Counties.

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Meteorologists say the effects of remnants from Tropical Storm Elsa are expected to begin affecting the Lowcountry by Wednesday afternoon.

Lowcountry school districts monitor storm’s path

As the storm’s likely track became more clear as it moved closer to Florida, county governments and school districts were watching for possible impacts.

The Colleton County School District said it will keep its schools and offices open on Wednesday. But district spokesman Sean Gruber said summer programs will be canceled on Thursday for students and staff. All other employees will report to work on a two-hour delay on Thursday.

Charleston County School District spokesman Andy Pruitt said his district is monitoring the storm, but have no plans so far to make schedule changes.

Dorchester County School District 2 spokesperson Pat Raynor said her district is working with Dorchester County Emergency Management to monitor the storm.

“At this time, it appears the impact will be minimal so no decisions to adjust schedules have been made,” she said.

Dorchester County is not one of the counties under the tropical storm watch.

Elsa regains Category 1 strength

Just before 8 p.m., the center of Hurricane Elsa was located by NOAA Doppler weather radars near latitude 26.6 North, longitude 83.1 West.

Data from the NOAA Doppler weather radar in Tampa Bay indicate that maximum sustained winds are near 75 mph with higher gusts. Some additional slight strengthening will be possible overnight. Weakening will begin after Elsa moves inland by late Wednesday morning.

Elsa is moving toward the north near 10 mph, and this general motion is expected to continue through Tuesday night. A turn toward the north-northeast is expected on Wednesday, followed by a faster northeastward motion by late Thursday.

On the forecast track, Elsa will move near or over portions of the west coast of Florida Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning. Elsa is forecast to make landfall along the north Florida Gulf coast by late Wednesday morning and then move across the southeastern United States through Thursday.

Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 90 miles from the center. Buoy 42013, located due north of Elsa, recently measured a peak 1-minute sustained wind of 38 mph gusting to 47 mph. A wind gust to 43 mph was recently measured on North Captiva Island. The estimated minimum central pressure is 29.41 inches.

Lowcountry to begin seeing effects Wednesday afternoon

Live 5 Chief Meteorologist Bill Walsh said the first effects from Elsa, which is expected to weaken to a tropical depression by the time it reaches South Carolina, will be bands of rain that move in Wednesday afternoon.

Walsh said the Lowcountry will see periods of heavy rains and gusty winds. There is also a chance of an isolated tornado late Wednesday into Thursday, depending on where the storm tracks across the Palmetto State.

Forecast tracks seem to agree that the center of the storm will pass through the center of the state, but that would put the strongest energy, which sits to the east of the storm’s center, right over the Lowcountry.

Portions of the Lowcountry could see between one and three inches of rain from the remnants of Elsa, Walsh said.

A chance of tropical storm-force winds could topple some trees, he said.

Some areas could see localized flooding depending on the speed of the storm and the amount of rain it drops.

The chance of an isolated tornado exists, although the current forecast shows that as a low risk.

State officials watch Elsa, but don’t expect major problems

Emergency officials in South Carolina are watching Tropical Storm Elsa, but no evacuations have been ordered during the peak summer tourism season along the state’s beaches.

Gov. Henry McMaster and local leaders stuck to statements Tuesday instead of the TV briefings that interrupt programming when stronger storms threaten from the Atlantic Ocean.

Elsa is expected to track inland over South Carolina. But coastal forecasters in South Carolina noted the worst weather was on the east side of the storm and could bring up to 5 inches of rain and wind gusts to 55 mph. Elsa would be the third tropical system to impact South Carolina early in the 2021 hurricane season.

Elsa became the first 2021 Atlantic hurricane of the season on Friday, reaching Category 1 strength by shortly before 8 a.m. Friday.

To become a Category 1 hurricane, maximum sustained winds must be at least 74 mph. As of 8 a.m., 75 mph sustained winds were recorded by the NHC.

Copyright 2021 WCSC. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.