The latest report from the National Weather Service in Key West forecasts a later arrival for Tropical Storm Elsa tomorrow, July 5. The storm-force winds are expected to arrive between 3 and 5 p.m., rather than noon to 2 p.m.. The Keys are under a tropical storm watch from Craig Key south, and that is expected to be updated later this afternoon to a tropical storm warning. 

Currently, Tropical Storm Elsa has 65 mph winds and a forward speed of 13 mph (or half as fast as yesterday). It is located off the eastern tip of Jamaica.

The track continues to inch west. The biggest impacts are expected in the Middle Keys and west towards Key West. However, John Rizzo, NWS’s warning coordination meteorologist in Key West, said the Upper Keys and Ocean Reef need to be vigilant of squalls, or isolated bands of damaging winds with the possibility of tornadoes. 

“If a squall goes through, expect a few trees to come down, or large limbs, and for that to cause communication and utilities outages in those neighborhoods,” Rizzo said. 

Forecast for rain and coastal flooding are steady — 2 to 4-inches of rain, and 1 to 2-feet of coastal flooding. Rizzo said it could be higher in some neighborhoods that are particularly affected by bands of weather. 

The forecast for Fourth of July is good. There is less than a 10 percent chance of rain and winds are out of the northeast at about 10 mph. However, after midnight, winds will pick up. A small craft advisory is likely tonight or tomorrow morning. Fourth of July activities are underway in the Florida Keys

Because Tropical Storm Elsa is arriving late on Monday, July 5, localized stormy weather is expected through Tuesday, July 6 in the Florida Keys. Monroe County and the Monroe County School District will consider tomorrow whether or not to close offices and schools. There are 750 students in the Keys enrolled in summer school. 

The State of Florida has issued an emergency order for 10 counties, including Monroe County. Monroe County Mayor Michelle Coldiorn has also signed an emergency order and the emergency operations center is a level two activation. The county is calling residents on it’s special needs registry. It is still urging residents in low-lying areas, mobile homes, RVs and liveaboard boaters to relocate to a safe structure on Monday, July 5. At this point, there are no plans to open shelters for the general population. Keys airports continue to operate on schedule and travelers are encouraged to monitor airline notifications regarding cancellations. Toppino’s at MM 9 on Rockland Key is giving out free sand to residents in need.

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Sara Matthis thinks community journalism is important, but not serious; likes weird and wonderful children (she has two); and occasionally tortures herself with sprint-distance triathlons, but only if she has a good chance of beating her sister.