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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9:39 p.m. ET, July 6, 2021

New forecast: Elsa still close to hurricane strength and is expected to become a hurricane tonight

From CNN's Dave Hennen

Tropical Storm Elsa brings a downpour of rain over the neighborhood of Paradise Island on Treasure Island, Florida, on Tuesday afternoon, July 6.
Tropical Storm Elsa brings a downpour of rain over the neighborhood of Paradise Island on Treasure Island, Florida, on Tuesday afternoon, July 6. Marc Topkin/Tampa Bay Times/AP

Elsa continues to have maximum sustained winds of 70 mph, according to the new 5 p.m. EDT advisory from the National Hurricane Center. 

The hurricane and storm surge warning remain in effect for portions of Florida’s west coast, including Tampa.  

Strong winds, heavy rain, storm surge and possible tornadoes will continue to impact much of southwest Florida this evening, spreading farther north towards places like Tampa and Sarasota later tonight into Wednesday morning, as the center of the storm continues to parallel the coast.

Landfall is expected tomorrow morning north of Tampa as the storm begins to track northeast.

The storm will weaken once it moves inland, but will likely bring tropical storm conditions to portions of Georgia and the Carolinas where a new tropical storm warning has been issued.  

By Friday morning the center of Elsa will move into the Atlantic where it could strengthen again and bring heavy rain and strong winds to coastal sections of the Mid-Atlantic and New England.

5:12 p.m. ET, July 6, 2021

Here's what you need to prepare as Tropical Storm Elsa gets closer to making landfall

From CNN's Doug Criss and Christina Maxouris

Officials say Tropical Storm Elsa could make landfall tomorrow at "near hurricane strength." There are many steps you can take to protect yourself, your loved ones and your property.

Here are just some things you will want to have on hand as the storm approaches:

  • First aid kit
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • A week-long supply of prescription medicines
  • Non-perishable or canned foods
  • Water
  • Cell phones and chargers
  • Cash
  • Rain gear and sturdy shoes

You should also stay inside and make sure your windows and doors and secure. Keep an eye on emergency weather alerts and forecasts for the latest information on the path of the storm. The Red Cross emergency app is also helpful.

Make sure you get ID tags for your pets and tie down and secure any outside items like lawn chairs.

You should also know where emergency shelters are located. If your area issues an evacuation, take it seriously and leave for your own safety.

Florida officials said on Tuesday that if an area calls for an evacuation, they will open shelters as-needed, especially for people with special needs.

You can download a full checklist of what you will need in a hurricane here.

4:58 p.m. ET, July 6, 2021

Florida National Guard starts preparations for Tropical Storm Elsa

From CNN’s Sara Weisfeldt and Rebekah Riess.

The Florida National Guard has started preparations in anticipation of Tropical Storm Elsa, activating 60 guardsmen to serve at the State Emergency Operations Center and the State Logistics Readiness Center, according to a release from the Guard.

According to the release, with approximately 12,000 soldiers and airmen assigned, the Florida National Guard can activate personnel as needed and directed by Gov. Ron DeSantis. 

“We are well-equipped with assets including high-wheeled vehicles, helicopters, boats and generators, and are preparing for possible missions to include humanitarian assistance, security operations, search and rescue, aviation, and more,” the release said.

4:51 p.m. ET, July 6, 2021

State of emergency expanded to include several more counties ahead of Tropical Storm Elsa

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess and Devon Sayers

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order, expanding the state of emergency to include Baker, Bradford, Clay, Duval, Nassau, Putnam, and Union counties ahead of Tropical Storm Elsa.

Additionally, the executive order removes the state of emergency from Franklin County.

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.