#Elsa nears Florida Landfall: what to expect today

Although briefly a hurricane again, the generally less than favorable upper wind conditions in the Gulf have caused Elsa to drop back to a tropical storm. The TLDR is that tropical storm conditions should be confined to the Florida Gulf Coast. For inland areas and the GA/SC coast, it will be a rainy and windy night, but impacts should be pretty moderate – scattered power outages, a few limbs down, nothing worse than you get from a strong thunderstorm. Some potential for urban flooding (the usual places), but “hazardous”, not “dangerous.” Here’s the details:

Landfall should be in a few hours near Cross City Florida, to the west of Cedar Key – here is a close up of the landfall area and next day impact swath:

TAOS/TC Impact swath based on 5am Wed. NHC Forecast

If this looks about like yesterday, it is. Although the track hasn’t changed much (a small shift left), the intensity forecast has been oscillating back and forth and this has caused some relatively big changes in forecast impacts – from $300 Million, to nearly a billion, to back under $500 Million. Most of this is due to lesser impacts in the Tampa area. However, it’s really easy to get a Billion dollar storm these days, given economic disruptions and the cost of minor repairs (not to mention lumber prices).

Elsa isn’t very well organized right now. Here’s the composite radar at 6am shows broad bands of rain, a dry western side, but no tight core:

MRMS Composite Radar, 6am ET. Click any image to embiggen.

Elsa didn’t come as close to Tampa and the wind field wasn’t as strong as expected yesterday afternoon, so damage was limited. In practical terms, for the area right around landfall we’re expecting minor damage – some trees and big limbs down, power outages, minor roof damage, that sort of thing. Water levels will be a couple of feet above normal tides; there is some inland/rain flooding potential given the saturated ground but Elsa should be moving fairly fast so widespread flooding isn’t expected, although WPC has north Florida moderate flash flood potential. If you live in a normal home it shouldn’t be dangerous unless you are really unlucky and a big tree falls on you. Mobile homes are a more risky location, and weak tornadoes (EF0/EF1) are possible in a landfall like this, but even here the potential for them in this storm is somewhat low. In the landfall area following the advice of local emergency managers is a good idea.

For Georgia and the Low Country, winds will pick up some and this evening and Thursday morning will be breezy with a few thunderstorms, with the impacts likely confined to a narrow band along the coast to the right of the track. WPC has the FL/GA/SC coast from Jacksonville to Charleston also tagged with a moderate flash flood potential, but the rain swath is pretty narrow, running right along I-95:

WPC five day rain estimate

However, the peak rainfall is under 3″ across the GA/SC area, which should not cause widespread flooding (except in the areas that always flood, like the aptly named Waters Ave. in Savannah 😛 ).

While there is a tropical storm warning up, it is rather unlikely Savannah will experience tropical storm conditions. At worst expect scattered power outages, some limbs down, I doubt we will see any significant impacts with winds more than likely well below minimal tropical storm force strength, other than right on the ocean. The spots that can flood in heavy rain if we get thunderstorms lined up in the rain bands, which happens sometimes. And as noted yesterday, NHC and the weather service have to warn about the worst possible impacts – not what most people are likely to experience. Some basic precautions like making sure anything likely to blow around in a strong wind gust is secured would be smart.

The storm will likely regenerate some as it exits the North Carolina coast, and may bring some breezy conditions to Cape Cod and the New England coast; probably nothing too bad by Nor’easter standards. The current track for day 4 and 5 (next weekend) has Elsa sweeping across Nova Scotia and Vinland (Newfoundland) as a tropical storm. Here’s the full swath:

I haven’t really followed much of the news coverage on this, but based on calls/emails it seems the the hype is in effect. Contributing to this is the Georgia Governor has joined Florida in declaring states of emergency for the coastal counties. While that sounds dramatic, as noted yesterday that doesn’t really mean a major disaster is expected – it’s mostly a mechanism to speed the flow of money (and sadly bypass around measures designed to limit graft and waste). It can have a positive impact in that it limits for a time things like price gouging and other unsavory practices (which, being good capitalists, are normally legal), and if a disaster does materialize, can help speed government response. Transport regulations are also suspended, making it easier to get supplies in.

In short, it’s a middling tropical storm. Unless you live in an area that floods in heavy rains, or in a vulnerable structure right on the coast, you’ll be fine.

1 thought on “#Elsa nears Florida Landfall: what to expect today

  1. Pingback: #Elsa evening update | Enki Research

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