Tropical Storm Elsa moving across west Cuba, then to Florida

Fishermen inspect their boats after they have been taken out of the bay to avoid damage from the passage of Tropical Storm Elsa, in Havana, Cuba, Monday, July 5, 2021.

Fishermen inspect their boats after they have been taken out of the bay to avoid damage from the passage of Tropical Storm Elsa, in Havana, Cuba, Monday, July 5, 2021. (Ramon Espinosa, Associated Press)


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HAVANA (AP) — Tropical Storm Elsa swept over western Cuba with strong rain and winds Monday, and forecasters said it would move on to the Florida Keys on Tuesday and Florida's central Gulf coast by Wednesday.

The storm was moving over mainly rural areas to the east of Havana after making landfall near Cienega de Zapata, a natural park with few inhabitants.

By late afternoon, Elsa's maximum sustained winds had slowed to 50 mph. Its core was about 45 miles southeast of Havana and moving to the northwest at 14 mph.

Though the capital was expected to miss the brunt of the storm, many people in Havana were staying in place.

"For now, I staying at home. We have to wait for the night and see exactly what happens," Aida Herrera, who lives next to the Malecon boulevard facing the sea, told The Associated Press.

Elsa had spent Sunday and much of Monday sweeping parallel to Cuba's southern coast before heading on to land, sparing most of the island from significant effects.

Home Depot department supervisor, Arnaldo Gonzalez, loads water bottles into Elena Arvalo's shopping cart as shoppers prepare for possible effects of tropical storm Elsa in Miami on Saturday, July 3, 2021. Elsa fell back to tropical storm force as it brushed past Haiti and the Dominican Republic on Saturday and threatened to unleash flooding and landslides before taking aim at Cuba and Florida.
Home Depot department supervisor, Arnaldo Gonzalez, loads water bottles into Elena Arvalo's shopping cart as shoppers prepare for possible effects of tropical storm Elsa in Miami on Saturday, July 3, 2021. Elsa fell back to tropical storm force as it brushed past Haiti and the Dominican Republic on Saturday and threatened to unleash flooding and landslides before taking aim at Cuba and Florida. (Photo: Al Diaz/Miami Herald via Associated Press)

As a precaution, Cuban officials had evacuated 180,000 people against the possibility of heavy flooding from a storm that already battered several Caribbean islands, killing at least three people.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the storm was expected to move back over the sea by Monday night and then head for Florida. Tropical storm warnings were posted for the Florida Keys from Craig Key westward to the Dry Tortugas and for the west coast of Florida from Flamingo northward to the Ochlockonee River.

Elsa was a Category 1 hurricane until Saturday morning, causing widespread damage on several eastern Caribbean islands Friday as the first hurricane of the Atlantic season. The storm caused the deaths of one person on St. Lucia and of a 15-year-old boy and a 75-year-old woman in separate events in the Dominican Republic.

Elsa is the earliest fifth-named storm on record and also broke the record as the tropic's fastest-moving hurricane, clocking in at 31 mph Saturday morning, said Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami.

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Andrea Rodríguez

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