Hurricane Elsa heads toward Florida

By Meg Wagner, Elise Hammond, Adrienne Vogt and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 9:39 p.m. ET, July 6, 2021
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5:09 p.m. ET, July 6, 2021

Tampa mayor to residents ahead of Tropical Storm Elsa: "Please stay home this evening"

From CNN's Hayley Simonson and Maria Cartaya

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and city safety officials gave a news conference Tuesday in preparation for Tropical Storm Elsa.  

“As it looks right now, this is going to remain a tropical storm,” Castor said.  

“Right now, what we’re looking at is the storm surge, which is predicted to be three to five feet and then winds as well. Winds can always be an issue, but it doesn’t, at this time, look as if it will go to hurricane strength," the mayor added.

Castor urged residents to be prepared and exercise common sense.  

“Please stay home this evening. You don’t need to be out. Do not go out.  We’re going to have a lot of rain, a lot of wind. Do not drive into water that you cannot see through, so that means don’t drive into water period,” said Castor.  

“We’re going to have some branches down, and we know what that means. That means some power outages,” the mayor said.

Chief Barbara Tripp of the Tampa Police Department assured residents that senior city staff will “be here to make sure things go smoothly.”  

4:14 p.m. ET, July 6, 2021

Busch Gardens in Tampa will close in anticipation of Tropical Storm Elsa's impact

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

Due to the anticipated impact of Tropical Storm Elsa, Tampa Bay theme park Busch Gardens will close at 4:00 p.m. today, “to ensure the safety of our ambassadors, guests and animals,” according to the park’s website.

At this time, the park is expected to reopen at 12:00 p.m. on Wednesday.

See the park's tweet:

3:36 p.m. ET, July 6, 2021

Florida's Manatee County urges residents to prepare for Elsa and secure their homes

From CNN’s Camille Furst

Florida's Manatee County is preparing for Tropical Storm Elsa to hit its region.

Florida Congressman Vern Buchanan said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon that the county could "have almost borderline terms of a hurricane.”

Although Elsa remains classified as a tropical storm with winds of 60 miles per hour, Buchanan said, "They're talking about potentially 75 mile-an-hour winds." Earlier today, the National Hurricane Center said Tropical Storm Elsa was "nearing hurricane strength."

Officials urged county residents to prepare for the storm.

County Administrator Scott Hopes said, "Please finalize your plans and secure your homes and get ready to sort of bunker down and ride out this storm."

3:06 p.m. ET, July 6, 2021

One more major Florida airport announces closure ahead of potential Elsa impacts

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess.

Due to the latest forecast of Tropical Storm Elsa, Sarasota Bradenton International Airport will close at 6:30 p.m. ET today, after the last commercial arrival scheduled for 5:30 p.m. ET, according to the airport’s website

The airport expects to resume operations tomorrow at 6:00 a.m. ET. Travelers are asked to check their airline for updates on their flight status. 

As CNN previously reported, Tampa International Airport and Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers announced their closures earlier Tuesday ahead of potential impacts from Tropical Storm Elsa.

2:54 p.m. ET, July 6, 2021

How to care for your pets if you are forced to evacuate

From CNN's Christopher Dawson and Alyssa Kraus

Parts of Florida and other southeastern states are bracing for heavy rain, strong winds, potential tornadoes and possible power outages as Tropical Storm Elsa continues to inch up the Gulf Coast.

Florida officials have warned residents they may need to evacuate their homes if local officials give the orders. While residents prepare for potential evacuation instructions from their local officials, it is important to also consider pet safety.

“It is often a last-minute consideration,” said Celene Albano with the Hurricane Pet Rescue non-profit. “So people take their pets without the right supplies or adequate plans which then creates big problems wherever they go. Or they abandon their animals which is even worse.”

Here's everything you need to know about evacuating a hurricane with pets:

Before you evacuate:

  • Visit your veterinarian to obtain copies of your pet's records and proof of vaccinations. If your pet requires medication, get a two or three week supply to ensure they will be covered. You may also consider enrolling your pet in a recovery database and having your pet microchipped. Other things to consider include providing a collar with a rabies vaccination tag and an ID tag with your contact information.
  • Create an emergency kit for your pet with three to seven days of canned or dry food, enough water for a week, leashes, collars and a sturdy carrier, as recommended by the North Carolina Department of Public Safety. You may also want to pack familiar items such as favorite toys and bedding to help reduce stress for your pet.

When you evacuate:

  • Find a pet-friendly boarding place, as many evacuation shelters will not allow pets, or consider a place that will take both you and your pet: Hotels are not required to accept pets during hurricane evacuations. However, websites like BringFido.comGoPetFriendly.com and PetsWelcome.com can help you find a place that will take both you and your pets.

If you are forced to leave your pet:

  • Don't confine them to a room or tie them up. If they are confined, they are not able to access high ground to remain safe. In addition, leave them plenty of food and water and leave a note outside of the house to alert others that there are pets inside.
  • Make it as easy as possible for them to survive the storm. Many large animals and livestock may not be able to evacuate. This link has preparation guides that can help them make it through the storm.

Read more about providing for your pets during a hurricane here.

2:18 p.m. ET, July 6, 2021

Elsa is "nearing hurricane strength," National Hurricane Center says

Tropical Storm Elsa is "nearing hurricane strength" as it continues to travel parallel to Florida's Gulf Coast, according to the latest update from the National Hurricane Center.

A hurricane warning has now been issued for parts of the Gulf Coast, including the Tampa area.

Here's a look at the latest predicted path for Elsa:

2:11 p.m. ET, July 6, 2021

Tornado watch in effect for more than 12 million people in southern Florida as Elsa nears coast

From CNN’s Jackson Dill

A tornado watch is in effect for more than 12 million people in southern Florida until 11 p.m. ET tonight.

This includes Tampa, Fort Myers, Miami, Surfside, St. Petersburg and Sarasota. A watch means tornadoes are possible over a period of several hours.

Tropical Storm Elsa is moving northward, parallel to the west coast of Florida and is responsible for this tornado threat.

The Storm Prediction Center says the environmental conditions “will become more favorable for a few tornadoes to develop within outer bands from the Florida Keys north across southwest and into the central Florida peninsula through this afternoon, likely continuing into the evening.”

The latest forecast from the Storm Prediction Center has a level 2 of 5 risk for severe weather, with the primary threat of isolated tornadoes. This risk level encompasses most of the Florida Peninsula and now includes Miami and Surfside.

The best risk for any tornadic storms will be between now and this evening in southern Florida while the threat is greatest tonight in central Florida.

1:32 p.m. ET, July 6, 2021

South Carolina warns residents of potential impacts from Tropical Storm Elsa

From CNN's Elise Hammond

South Carolina is bracing for any potential impacts from Tropical Storm Elsa. Forecasters with the National Hurricane Center are predicting parts of the state's coast could experience gusty winds, rain, isolated tornadoes and flash flooding, according to a statement from Gov. Henry McMaster's office. A storm surge of 1 to 2 feet is also possible in some areas, officials say.

The South Carolina Emergency Management Division said it is coordinating with other state agencies to respond to the storm.

"Residents who live in mobile homes or in low lying areas prone to flooding may need to consider staying elsewhere during the storm. Stay with friends and family as a first option. Go to a motel or hotel, if possible. Emergency shelters will open if necessary," the statement said.

State officials say that if your area has a potential for flash flooding, move to higher ground – don't wait to be told to move.

The governor also said people should not try to walk through moving water or drive into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, get out and move to higher ground.

1:27 p.m. ET, July 6, 2021

Tampa area closes county facilities ahead of Tropical Storm Elsa

Hillsborough County, Florida, will close its county facilities at 2 p.m. ET today as Tropical Storm Elsa continues to inch up the Gulf Coast. They will remain closed until at least noon tomorrow, the county said.

Hillsborough County includes the city of Tampa. Earlier today, Tampa International Airport announced commercial flights would stop at 5 p.m. ET ahead of the storm.