Rep. Gimenez: Tropical storm has ‘accelerated’ demolition of condo tower remains

Florida Rep. Carlos Gimenez explains how possible impact from Tropical Storm Elsa is accelerating plans to demolish the unstable remains of the Champlain condo tower

A tropical storm watch was issued for the Florida Keys from Craig Key westward to the Dry Tortugas on Saturday night as Tropical Storm Elsa headed toward the state. 

Elsa, which battered the southern coasts of Haiti and the Dominican Republic on Saturday, was downgraded from a Category 1 hurricane Saturday morning. The storm has left at least three people dead. 

One death was reported in St. Lucia, according to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency. Meanwhile, a 15-year-old boy and a 75-year-old woman died Saturday in separate events in the Dominican Republic after walls collapsed on them, according to a statement from the Emergency Operations Center.

The storm had maximum sustained winds of 65 mph and was moving in a west-northwesterly direction at about 14 mph by early Sunday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Hurricane Elsa approaches Argyle, St. Vincent, Friday, July 2, 2021. (Associated Press)

The storm was forecast to hit Cuba next on a path that would take it to Florida. 

Elsa prompted Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to declare a state of emergency in 15 Florida counties, including Miami-Dade County, where a high-rise condominium building collapsed last week. The standing portion of the building was expected to demolished “a soon as possible” amid concerns over Elsa approaching, the governor said Saturday.  

Elsa was expected to slow down and turn northwest by Sunday night or Monday when the Keys could start seeing storm conditions, the hurricane center and FOX 13 of Tampa reported. 

Elsa is then expected to move near or over parts of the Gulf coast of Florida by Tuesday, the hurricane center said. Some models show it heading into the Gulf or up the Atlantic Coast. Elsa’s ultimate trajectory remained uncertain.

An electrical pole felled by Hurricane Elsa leans on the edge of a residential balcony, in Cedars, St. Vincent, Friday, July 2, 2021. (Associated Press)

“What we don’t want to be is on the eastern side of the storm,” FOX 13 meteorologist Tony Sadiku said. “That gives us more of the impacts of wind and rain. 

If the storm moves into the southeastern Gulf as a tropical storm it will likely gain strength, but will more likely weaken if it’s torn apart while moving over Cuba, FOX 13 meteorologist Tyler Eliasen said Saturday. 

Parts of the Keys could face a storm surge of one to two feet and, along with the peninsula, could have two to six inches of rain and isolated flash, urban, and minor river flooding, the hurricane center said. Swells will increase near the Florida Keys and south Florida early next week.

Tropical storm warnings were also in effect for the southern part of Haiti and parts of Cuba along with a watch for parts of the Cayman Islands. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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