Tropical Storm Elsa headed up Suwannee River Basin 2021-07-06

Update 9 AM 2021-07-07: Elsa again Tropical Storm, but hurricane warnings persist, landfall soon 2021-07-07

Recent heavy rains were just the start. Expect 4 to 6 inches more today or tomorrow from Tropical Storm Elsa, along with winds from hurricane force in Dixie County plus possible storm surge, dropping to maybe 30 mph in south Georgia, with marginal risk of flash flooding throughout.

[Rainfall]
Rainfall

Where I am near the GA-FL line, we already got 6.25 inches in the past two days. That’s six weeks of rain by the annual average. Also near the state line, western Brooks County, GA got almost an inch and a half, Skipper Bridge on the Withlacoochee River got almost an inch and US 84 more than half an inch, while Statenville on the Alapaha got almost an inch, and Fargo on the Suwannee got almost two inches.

According to the National Hurricane Center at 8AM this morning, Tropical Storm Elsa is west of Key West, heading up the Florida Gulf Coast past Tampa, expected to make landfall around 2AM Wednesday (tomorrow), probably in Dixie County, for which county a hurricane warning has been issued.

[5-day cone path prediction]
5-day cone path prediction

Suwannee, FL, and Cedar Key may get 80 mile-per-hour winds. That’s hurricane category 1.

By the time Elsa gets to Valdosta and the Okefenokee Swamp, probably it will be down to 30 mph winds.

[Storm Force Winds]
Storm Force Winds

The Suwannee River Basin has 5% Marginal flash flood warnings. The Tampa Bay Area and the Georgia Atlantic Coast have 20% Moderate flash flood warnings.

[Flash Flood Warnings]
Flash Flood Warnings

According to National Weather Service Tallahassee, 5:07 AM, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, “This product covers eastern Florida panhandle, Florida Big Bend, southeastern Alabama and southwestern Georgia”:

  • CHANGES TO WATCHES AND WARNINGS:
    • A Hurricane Watch has been issued for Coastal Dixie
    • The Tropical Storm Watch has been upgraded to a Tropical Storm Warning for Lafayette
  • CURRENT WATCHES AND WARNINGS:
    • A Tropical Storm Warning and Storm Surge Watch are in effect for Coastal Jefferson and Coastal Wakulla
    • A Storm Surge Warning and Tropical Storm Warning are in effect for Coastal Taylor
    • A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for Inland Dixie, Inland Taylor, and Lafayette
    • A Storm Surge Warning, Tropical Storm Warning, and Hurricane Watch are in effect for Coastal Dixie
    • A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for Brooks, Coastal Franklin, Inland Jefferson, Lowndes, and Madison
  • STORM INFORMATION:
    • About 460 miles south-southeast of Panama City or about 420 miles south-southeast of Apalachicola
    • 24.1N 82.4W
    • Storm Intensity 60 mph
    • Movement North-northwest or 340 degrees at 12 mph

SITUATION OVERVIEW

Tropical Storm Elsa emerges into the southeast Gulf this morning and then should track roughly parallel to the west coast of the Florida Peninsula through late Tuesday night, with some strengthening anticipated. Elsa is forecast to make landfall as a strong tropical storm somewhere along the Southeast Big Bend around Wednesday morning before moving across South Georgia later that afternoon. There is a slight chance that Elsa becomes a hurricane as it comes ashore. To account for this possibility, Hurricane Watches have been issued for the coast from the Suwannee River to Steinhatchee River, and for waters extending from coastal Dixie County out to 60 nautical miles. Lafayette County was also upgraded to a Tropical Storm Warning. Conditions look to deteriorate across Apalachee Bay and the Southeast Big Bend as early as Tuesday evening.

Tropical storm conditions are expected across the Southeast Big Bend and Apalachee Bay on Tuesday night, then into the Eastern Big Bend and portions of adjacent South-Central Georgia on Wednesday, with hurricane conditions possible across coastal Dixie County. Strong winds could cause downed trees, power outages, and loose items blown around. A storm surge of around 2 to 4 feet is forecast across coastal areas from Ochlocknee River to Aucilla River and 3 to 5 feet eastward to the Suwannee River. These values remain heavily dependent on any track and intensity changes. Rainfall of 2 to 4 inches with isolated amounts near 5 to 6 inches will be possible with Elsa. This rainfall could cause some localized flooding issues across the Southeast Big Bend. An isolated tornado or two will also be possible across the Southeast Big Bend and portions of adjacent South-Central Georgia.

POTENTIAL IMPACTS

  • WIND: Protect against dangerous wind having possible significant impacts across the Southeast Big Bend. Potential impacts in this area include:
    • Some damage to roofing and siding materials, along with damage to porches, awnings, carports, and sheds. A few buildings experiencing window, door, and garage door failures. Mobile homes damaged, especially if unanchored. Unsecured lightweight objects become dangerous projectiles.
    • Several large trees snapped or uprooted, but with greater numbers in places where trees are shallow rooted. Several fences and roadway signs blown over.
    • Some roads impassable from large debris, and more within urban or heavily wooded places. A few bridges, causeways, and access routes impassable.
    • Scattered power and communications outages, but more prevalent in areas with above ground lines.

    Also, protect against hazardous wind having possible limited impacts across the rest of the Big Bend and South-Central Georgia.

    Elsewhere across eastern Florida panhandle, Florida Big Bend, southeastern Alabama and southwestern Georgia, little to no impact is anticipated.

  • SURGE: Protect against life-threatening surge having possible significant impacts across Eastern Apalachee Bay. Potential impacts in this area include:
    • Areas of inundation with storm surge flooding accentuated by waves. Damage to several buildings, mainly near the coast.
    • Sections of near-shore escape routes and secondary roads become weakened or washed out, especially in usually vulnerable low spots.
    • Major beach erosion with heavy surf breaching dunes. Strong and numerous rip currents.
    • Moderate damage to marinas, docks, boardwalks, and piers. Several small craft broken away from moorings, especially in unprotected anchorages.

    Also, protect against locally hazardous surge having possible limited impacts across Western Apalachee Bay.

    Elsewhere across eastern Florida panhandle, Florida Big Bend, southeastern Alabama and southwestern Georgia, little to no impact is anticipated.

  • FLOODING RAIN: Protect against life-threatening rainfall flooding having possible extensive impacts across far Southeast Big Bend. Potential impacts include:
    • Major rainfall flooding may prompt many evacuations and rescues.
    • Rivers and tributaries may rapidly overflow their banks in multiple places. Small streams, creeks, and ditches may become dangerous rivers. Flood control systems and barriers may become stressed.
    • Flood waters can enter many structures within multiple communities, some structures becoming uninhabitable or washed away. Many places where flood waters may cover escape routes. Streets and parking lots become rivers of moving water with underpasses submerged. Driving conditions become dangerous. Many road and bridge closures with some weakened or washed out.

    Protect against dangerous rainfall flooding having possible limited to significant impacts across the rest of the area.

  • TORNADOES: Protect against a tornado event having possible limited impacts across the Southeast Big Bend and portions of South-Central Georgia. Potential impacts include:
    • The occurrence of isolated tornadoes can hinder the execution of emergency plans during tropical events.
    • A few places may experience tornado damage, along with power and communications disruptions.
    • Locations could realize roofs peeled off buildings, chimneys toppled, mobile homes pushed off foundations or overturned, large tree tops and branches snapped off, shallow-rooted trees knocked over, moving vehicles blown off roads, and small boats pulled from moorings.

    Elsewhere across eastern Florida panhandle, Florida Big Bend, southeastern Alabama and southwestern Georgia, little to no impact is anticipated.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS

  • EVACUATIONS: Listen to local official for recommended preparedness actions, including possible evacuation. If ordered to evacuate, do so immediately.

    If evacuating, leave with a destination in mind and allow extra time to get there. Take your emergency supplies kit. Gas up your vehicle ahead of time.

  • OTHER PREPAREDNESS INFORMATION: Now is the time to complete all preparations to protect life and property in accordance with your emergency plan. Ensure you are in a safe location before the onset of strong winds or possible flooding.

    Keep cell phones well charged. Cell phone chargers for automobiles can be helpful, but be aware of your risk for deadly carbon monoxide poisoning if your car is left idling in a garage or other poorly ventilated area.

    If you are a visitor, be sure to know the name of the city in which you are staying and the name of the county in which it resides. Listen for these locations in local news updates. Pay attention for instructions from local authorities.

    Storm surge is the leading killer associated with tropical storms and hurricanes! Make sure you are in a safe area away from the surge zone. Even if you are not in a surge-prone area, you could find yourself cutoff by flood waters during and after the storm. Heed evacuation orders issued by the local authorities.

    Closely monitor weather.gov, NOAA Weather radio or local news outlets for official storm information. Be ready to adapt to possible changes to the forecast. Ensure you have multiple ways to receive weather warnings.

  • ADDITIONAL SOURCES OF INFORMATION:
    • For information on appropriate preparations see ready.gov
    • For additional disaster preparedness information see redcross.org

NEXT UPDATE

The next local statement will be issued by the National Weather Service in Tallahassee FL around 11 AM EDT, or sooner if conditions warrant.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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