Elsa has officially regained hurricane status, with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph, as it moves at 14 mph just offshore of the Pinellas peninsula. The eye of the storm is 65 miles SW of Tampa Bay as of the National Hurricane Center’s 11 p.m. report, with heavy rains and winds spreading across Southwest and West-Central Florida.
Elsa is expected to move northward through Tuesday night, with a turn toward the northeast early Wednesday, according to the NHC.
“Elsa is forecast to make landfall along the north Florida Gulf coast by late Wednesday morning and then move across the southeastern United States through Thursday,” according to the NHC.
Residents should be braced for hurricane conditions, including high winds, heavy rains and storm surge, coupled with an expected high tide at 2 a.m. There will also likely be considerable flooding in low-lying areas of Pinellas County, and currently a tornado watch and flood watch are in place.
At this time, there is no mandatory evacuation. Pinellas County residents are encouraged to shelter in place and avoid roadways Residents should expect storm force winds and possible coastal and rainfall-induced flooding.
Hurricane Elsa is expected to pass just west of Pinellas and make landfall on the north-central Gulf coast.
The Gabber will update as needed with new information.
Beach Access Restricted
The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office announced Tuesday afternoon that it will limit access to only allow island residents, employees, and hotel guests to ensure safety. Restricted access to all barrier islands (including Madeira Beach, Treasure Island and St. Pete Beach) began at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 6 and will remain in effect through 7 a.m. Wednesday, July 7. Beach residents, employees, and hotel and vacation rental guests can return to the island.
Please remember that once sustained winds reach 40 mph, first responders cannot respond to any calls.
Find resources for city updates here:
Gulfport – A Gulfport Information Call Center is open for storm questions at 727-893-1000.
Pinellas County Resources
The county has opened two shelters for residents:
The Lealman Exchange shelter, at 5175 45th St. N in St. Petersburg, will open for the general population, those with special needs and persons with pets.
Ross Norton Recreation Center shelter, at 1426 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. in Clearwater, will open to the general population.
For residents with hurricane prep questions, the County Information Center is open at 727-464-4333. Residents who are deaf or hard of hearing can contact the CIC via online chat at bit.ly/PinellasChat.
The county advises all residents to have a plan in the event you need to shelter in place or evacuate. You can find your evacuation zone at pinellascounty.org/knowyourzone or call 727-453-3150 and enter your 10-digit home phone number.
Residents can also sign up for Alert Pinellas at pinellascounty.org/alertpinellas and review tips and planning tools in the 2020 All Hazard Guide online at pinellascounty.org/emergency, including shelter information, sandbag location and hurricane supply recommendations.
For those who require special needs shelter accommodations, you can call the County Information Center at 727-464-4333, even if you are transporting yourself to the shelter. Registration is required for those needing transportation assistance.