The storm battered St Lucia and the Dominican Republic as it ripped through the Caribbean, killing at least three people, and is set to hit the US this morning.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis told Floridians to be prepared for storm conditions, warning on Tuesday: “You’re going to see impacts all across the west coast into the morning hours.”
He added: “Anything east of the eye will have some storm impacts for sure,” Florida Politics reported.
Mr DeSantis said forecasts have predicted the cyclone will come ashore sometime between 8am and 9am on Wednesday.
“Storm surge, heavy rainfall, and wind impact to continue across portions of the Florida peninsula,” the National Hurricane Centre said in a Tweet early on Wednesday.
The agency warned of considerable flash flooding and a “danger of life-threatening storm surge” along portions of the west coast of Florida on Wednesday.
Reports have said that the hurricane had weakened to a tropical storm as it threatened Florida’s northern Gulf Coast, but a hurricane warning remained in effect for a long stretch of coastline.
“We ask that you please take it seriously,” Mr DeSantis said on Tuesday in Tallahassee. “This is not a time to joyride because we do have hazardous conditions out there.”
The cyclone already tore past the Tampa Bay region with gusty winds and heavy rain, but there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries in the area.
On Tuesday evening, the Republican governor revealed that he had expanded the state of emergency for the storm to include Baker, Bradford, Clay, Duval, Nassau, Putnam and Union counties.
“Elsa will produce wind and rain that can lead to flooding and power outages,” he said on Twitter. The governor also warned people to observe caution when setting up temporary generators.
The use of generators can cause carbon monoxide to build up in a home, garage, or camper and lead to fatal poisoning of the people inside.
Elsa‘s maximum sustained winds stood at 65 mph (100 kph) early on Wednesday. Its core was about 50 miles (75 kilometers) south southwest of Cedar Key.
The storm comes amid continued search and rescue efforts for victims of the collapse of a Miami-area high-rise condominium, straining the operation even further.
As the search reaches its 14th day, the death toll following the tragedy sits at three dozen, with more than 100 people still unaccounted for.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press