Tropical Storm Elsa became Hurricane Elsa on Friday morning as it moved along a path that could batter the Caribbean this weekend and hit Florida early next week, potentially complicating rescue work at the site of the collapsed Champlain Towers South condominium building.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday that he was committed to continuing the search for any survivors. He said officials were monitoring the track of the storm and preparing to secure equipment at the site and monitor the stability of the partly collapsed building.
“We’re actively monitoring the situation like we always would do with these storms,” Mr. DeSantis said, “but given what we’re doing on this site, we’re also paying special attention to any impacts that could happen here.”
Elsa’s route remains highly uncertain, but most of Florida lies within the cone forecasters use to project the storm’s course. The potential for strong winds, heavy rain and storm surge could present yet another setback to the search for survivors of last week’s condo collapse in Surfside, Fla., in which 20 people are confirmed to have died and as many as 128 remain missing.
“It’s just so challenging, so many different obstacles” said Chief Alan Cominsky of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, who added that engineers were monitoring the site and the potential for heavy wind to affect the remaining part of the building.
Tropical-storm-force winds could reach South Florida as early as Sunday evening, according to the National Weather Service, with the center of the storm approaching the state by late Monday or Tuesday morning. The current forecast calls for Elsa to weaken back into a tropical storm as it moves through the Caribbean and toward Florida’s west coast.
Officials in the Miami area urged residents on Friday to begin assembling emergency supplies and to secure objects like patio furniture and trash cans that could blow away.
As Elsa moved over Barbados on Friday, sustained winds of 75 mph were reported with gusts of up to 86 m.p.h. Hurricane warnings were in effect for Barbados, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
No survivors have been found at Champlain Towers in more than a week, and the search has already been complicated by heavy rain and structural challenges. Work resumed at the collapse site Thursday evening after being paused earlier in the day amid concerns that portions of the building still standing could fall onto rescuers.