Elsa strengthens to Category 1 hurricane before Florida landfall: Latest forecast

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Elsa has strengthened to a Category 1 hurricane Tuesday night just southwest of Tampa Bay with sustained winds of 75 mph.

Landfall is expected around 8 or 9 a.m. Wednesday near the Big Bend region along Florida's west coast.

PHOTO: Elsa is forecast to continue to strengthen into a Category 1 hurricane and make landfall in the Big Bend area, near Cedar Key, Fla., on Wednesday morning around 8 to 10 a.m. (ABC News)
PHOTO: Elsa is forecast to continue to strengthen into a Category 1 hurricane and make landfall in the Big Bend area, near Cedar Key, Fla., on Wednesday morning around 8 to 10 a.m. (ABC News)

Storms with winds of 74 mph or higher are considered hurricanes.

Elsa's path is sparing Miami, where rescuers are still searching for victims of the deadly Surfside condo collapse.

MORE: Surfside building collapse latest: 4 more bodies recovered

Search and rescue efforts continued through the rain and wind overnight, pausing only briefly for lightning as per the law, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Tuesday. The wind has also hampered large cranes from moving heavy debris, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said.

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MORE: What we know about the victims of the Surfside building collapse

A hurricane warning is in effect along Florida’s northern Gulf Coast while a tornado watch has been issued from Miami to Tampa through 11 p.m.

The University of Florida in Gainesville has canceled all classes for Wednesday as Elsa closes in.

Tampa International Airport is suspending operations from 5 p.m. Tuesday until 10 a.m. Wednesday while the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport is stopping operations from 6:30 p.m. to 6 a.m.

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Storm surge could reach 3 to 5 feet along Florida’s Gulf Coast.

PHOTO: Storm surge could reach 3 to 5 feet along Florida’s Gulf Coast. (ABC News)
PHOTO: Storm surge could reach 3 to 5 feet along Florida’s Gulf Coast. (ABC News)

Rainfall totals may climb to 6 to 8 inches across Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas through Thursday.

MORE: What to know about storm surge

The ground in many parts of the Sunshine State is already saturated after a 300% rain increase over the last two weeks, Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez said Tuesday.

PHOTO: Rainfall totals could reach 6 to 8 inches or more from southwest Florida all the way into Georgia and the Carolinas through Thursday. (ABC News)
PHOTO: Rainfall totals could reach 6 to 8 inches or more from southwest Florida all the way into Georgia and the Carolinas through Thursday. (ABC News)

Residents should be prepared to be without power for the next few days, but widespread evacuations aren't expected, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said.

PHOTO: Melissa Loven and Crea Egan place sandbags in front of a store ahead of tropical storm Elsa, July 6, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (John Pendygraft/Tampa Bay Times via AP)
PHOTO: Melissa Loven and Crea Egan place sandbags in front of a store ahead of tropical storm Elsa, July 6, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (John Pendygraft/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

After barreling through Florida, Elsa will weaken to a tropical storm or tropical depression as it moves through Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina.

MORE: Power outages, carbon monoxide deaths: What you should know to stay safe

PHOTO: Elsa will bring impacts such as rain and wind up into the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast by the end of the week. (ABC News)
PHOTO: Elsa will bring impacts such as rain and wind up into the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast by the end of the week. (ABC News)

By the end of the week, Elsa will bring rain and wind to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

Elsa strengthens to Category 1 hurricane before Florida landfall: Latest forecast originally appeared on abcnews.go.com

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