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DeSantis: ‘Don’t focus on the cone’; Elsa impacts could be widespread

Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Columbia, Nassau, Putnam and Union counties included in expanded state of emergency for Elsa

This GOES-16 GeoColor satellite image taken Monday, July 5, 2021, at 4:50 p.m. EDT, and provided by NOAA, shows Tropical Storm Elsa over western Cuba with strong rain and winds. Forecasters say it will move on to the Florida Keys on Tuesday and Floridas central Gulf coast by Wednesday. The storm is moving over mainly rural areas to the east of Havana on Monday after making landfall near Cienega de Zapata, a natural park with few inhabitants. (NOAA via AP)
This GOES-16 GeoColor satellite image taken Monday, July 5, 2021, at 4:50 p.m. EDT, and provided by NOAA, shows Tropical Storm Elsa over western Cuba with strong rain and winds. Forecasters say it will move on to the Florida Keys on Tuesday and Floridas central Gulf coast by Wednesday. The storm is moving over mainly rural areas to the east of Havana on Monday after making landfall near Cienega de Zapata, a natural park with few inhabitants. (NOAA via AP)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday issued an executive order expanding the state of emergency due to Tropical Storm Elsa to include Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Columbia counties, Duval, Nassau, Putnam and Union counties.

The state of emergency also includes Dixie, Franklin, Hamilton, Gilchrist, Jefferson, Lake, Lafayette, Madison, Marion, Sumter, Suwannee, Taylor and Wakulla counties.

The executive order also removed the state of emergency declaration from DeSoto, Hardee and Miami-Dade counties.

“The threat posed by Tropical Storm Elsa requires timely precautions that are taken to protect the communities, critical infrastructure, and general welfare of Florida,” the order states.

THE LATEST: Tropical Storm Elsa | WHAT TO EXPECT: Forecasting Elsa’s impact on Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia | TRACKING THE TROPICS: Interactive map

Elsa’s maximum sustained winds strengthened to 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. Its core was about 50 miles southwest of Key West, Florida, and 270 miles south of Tampa. It was continuing to move to the north-northwest at 12 mph.

“It’s important that Floridians don’t focus on the cone. Impacts are expected well outside that area and if you look at how the storm is, it’s incredibly lopsided to the east. So most of the rainfall is going to be east of the center of the storm,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis said the state was activating the Emergency Operations Center to Level 1, a step it wouldn’t normally take for a tropical storm. He said that’s because some of the counties impacted don’t have the financial resources to handle the impacts of Elsa without some assistance from the state.

About 250 National Guard members have been called up and are staging in Orlando to help push supplies out of the state warehouse there.

The state is also watching closely because some areas where Elsa is expected to dump heavy rainfall are already saturated by weeks of rain, DeSantis said.

“The interaction of the wet ground with even more rain, you will see flash flooding conditions in many parts of Florida as this thing moves through. So if you’re in those coastal areas, begin your preparations now,” DeSantis said during a Tuesday morning news conference. “Be prepared to be without power for a few days and have enough food and water for each person in their family, including for your pets. It’s important that Floridians have weather alerts turned on, especially as we see that most impacts will occur overnight with this storm.”

DeSantis said no widespread evacuation orders are anticipated, but if local officials deem an evacuation order necessary, residents should “heed the call.”

DeSantis also took time to remind residents that if they lose power and opt for a generator, they need to use it correctly.

“The exhaust must go to open air and not inside your home, not inside your garage, and also not inside under an open window. Sometimes people will put it right out their window, have the window open with the power cords running, and the exhaust comes into the house,” DeSantis warned. “The last four years, there have been more fatalities as the result of people getting carbon monoxide poisoning than direct impacts from the storm.”