Elsa weakens to tropical storm ahead of landfall in Florida

Elsa weakens to tropical storm ahead of landfall in Florida
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Elsa was once again downgraded to a tropical storm early Wednesday before reaching a portion of Florida’s Gulf Coast, though heavy rain and wind gusts are expected to continue hitting the Sunshine State as it moves north. 

While the National Hurricane Center said Tuesday evening that Elsa had regained its status as a Category 1 hurricane, it returned to its tropical storm designation ahead of it reaching a portion of Florida’s western coastline, with maximum sustained winds at 65 miles per hour. 

The Associated Press reported that tropical storm warnings were canceled for Cape Coral and Fort Myers.

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While Tampa is no longer under a hurricane warning, forecasters said residents should expect tropical storm conditions such as winds and flash flooding. 

We’re fortunate to see minimal damage & flooding this morning, but it’s important to keep safety top of mind,” Tampa Mayor Jane Castor (D) wrote in a tweet Wednesday morning as rainfall and winds hit the city.

“Be aware of your surroundings & don’t drive through flood waters,” she added. 

Tampa schools and government offices closed on Tuesday ahead of the storm, and the Tampa International Airport suspended operations at 5 p.m., with flights scheduled to resume by 10 a.m. Wednesday, according to the AP. 

Castor has said that she expects the Stanley Cup finals game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens scheduled for Wednesday night to be played as planned, as much of the state appears to have been spared significant damage and power outages. 

The storm had also sparked concerns about whether rescue efforts could continue in Surfside, Fla., at the site of the residential condo building collapse almost two weeks ago, prompting officials to carry out the demolition of the remainder of the structure Sunday evening. 

However, emergency responders have continued to dig through the rubble this week, finding eight additional bodies on Tuesday. The total death toll now stands at 36. 

More than 100 people remain missing, however, and Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava (D) said Tuesday that workers were ready to switch from a primary mission of rescuing individuals who may still be alive to recovering bodies at the site.