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Elsa weakens to tropical storm, heads towards Florida Gulf coast

by Reuters
Wednesday, 7 July 2021 13:39 GMT

(Adds details from forecast and governor's briefing)

By Octavio Jones and Jonathan Allen

TAMPA, Fla., July 7 (Reuters) - Elsa weakened to a tropical storm early on Wednesday and is expected to make landfall on the north Florida Gulf coast later in the morning or early afternoon, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

It had strengthened to a hurricane, the first of the season, on Tuesday night before weakening again as it moved north more or less parallel to Florida's west coast.

"Clearly this could have been worse," Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said at a news briefing on Wednesday morning. There were no reports of injuries or major structural damage, though there still remained a risk of tornadoes, he said. About 26,000 customers had lost their power across Florida.

In Tampa, some residents were out for an early morning jog along the shore as gray clouds parted.

The storm was 35 miles (55 km) west of Florida's Cedar Key, with maximum sustained winds of 65 miles per hour (100 km per hour), the NHC said in an advisory issued at 8 a.m. ET.

Elsa also briefly strengthened to a hurricane last week, when it killed at least three people, blew roofs off homes, toppled trees and sparked flooding in Caribbean island nations east of Cuba.

Hurricane warnings that had been issued along a stretch of Florida's west coast were downgraded to tropical storm warnings. (Reporting by Octavio Jones in Tampa, Florida, and Jonathan Allen in New York; Additional reporting by Maria Ponnezhath in Bengaluru; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Andrea Ricci)

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