SC Staff Report
UPDATE: Light rain continues to fall Tuesday as Sanibel remains under a tropical storm and storm surge warning from Tropical Storm Elsa, which is lashing the Florida Keys. The storm’s maximum sustained winds stood at 60 mph early Tuesday. A slow strengthening is forecast through Tuesday night and Elsa could be near hurricane strength before it makes landfall in Florida.
Elsa’s core was about 65 miles west-northwest of Key West and 215 miles south of Tampa. It was continuing to move to the north-northwest at 10 mph.
Lee County said in a statement Tuesday that it does not literally “close” bridges, including the Sanibel Causeway. But the Lee Department of Transportation strongly advises motorists to stay off bridges – and the roads leading to them – when sustained winds reach tropical storm force of 40 mph.
The National Weather Service has issued a storm surge warning for coastal Lee County, which includes Sanibel, and as of 5 p.m. Monday, July 5, Sanibel also remains under a tropical storm warning as TS Elsa heads for Florida.
A tropical storm warning means sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph are expected on Sanibel within 36 hours. The NWS is currently forecasting peak winds at 25 to 35 mph with gusts to 50 mph. The NWS is also currently forecasting a peak storm surge of 2 feet above ground level. The City of Sanibel is advising residents and businesses to secure all items that may be a projectile, including signage, umbrellas and any unsecured items outdoors.
Elsa made landfall in Cuba on Monday afternoon and was back over water with sustained winds strengthened to 60 mph late Monday, according to the Associated Press. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the storm was expected to be near the Florida Keys early Tuesday and would then pass near or over portions of Florida’s west coast by late Tuesday and into Wednesday.