Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency for fifteen counties on Saturday in anticipation of Tropical Storm Elsa, which is predicted to hit the state in coming days.
Elsa on Friday became the first hurricane of the season, according to the National Hurricane Center, but has since been downgraded to a tropical storm. A hurricane warning remains in effect for parts of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, where strong winds and heavy rain have already begun. The storm is predicted to impact the Cayman Islands and Cuba over the weekend before moving to the Florida Keys.
“There is an increasing risk of tropical storm conditions, storm surge and rainfall impacts beginning Monday in the Florida Keys and the southern Florida Peninsula, and a Tropical Storm Watch is now in effect for portions of the Florida Keys,” the National Hurricane Center said in a storm advisory.
DeSantis said Saturday in a press conference that Elsa’s strength could potentially increase when it moves over the Gulf of Mexico. Tropical storm watches have been issued for the middle and lower Florida Keys, with more expected to come for the state’s west coast, the governor said.
He advised residents to begin a disaster preparation plan, which includes stocking a disaster supply kit with at least a week’s worth of materials.
Miami-Dade County, already under a state of emergency due to theof Champlain Towers South, is among the areas included within the tropical storm executive order. The collapse of the condo tower has killed at least 24 people while 121 people remain unaccounted for.
“Florida is working with local authorities to safely secure the Surfside site ahead of the storm,” DeSantis said on Twitter.
Search and rescue operations have been paused at the site as preparations to demolish what remains of the structure move forward.