We now have our first hurricane of the 2021 Atlantic tropical storm season, as tropical storm Elsa has intensified as anticipated and now becomes hurricane Elsa, with the forecast still bringing the storm towards Florida over the coming days.
Hurricane Elsa is forecast to head through the Caribbean with a number of islands in its path, including some of the windward islands, as well as Haiti and Cuba, with Jamaica also not far away from Elsa’s expected track.
Currently, hurricane Elsa has sustained winds of 75 mph and higher gusts, but some forecast models now expect intensification over the next couple of days, with a category 2 hurricane seen as possible.
Update – Monday, July 5th, 08:30 BST:
Update – Sunday, July 4th, 13:00 BST:
Elsa weakened back to tropical storm force winds and currently has sustained speeds of 65 mph. Further weakening is anticipated as tropical storm Elsa travels over Cuba after which it will track north and west towards Florida.
Elsa’s forward speed has slowed considerably, down to 13 mph. There is still some uncertainty over the exact path, with some models showing tropical storm Elsa travelling up the west of Florida and then making landfall towards the Tampa region, while others show the storm travelling north further towards the east coast.
The majority of models expect Elsa to remain a relatively strong tropical storm, but at this time few anticipate it regaining hurricane strength.
However, the NHC does warn of some restrengthening of Elsa once it emerges over the Florida Straits, so it remains once to watch on Monday at which time a little more certainty may be gained.
Further ahead, the forecast for hurricane Elsa is more uncertain, as interaction with Haiti and Cuba could weaken the storm before it emerges into the straits of Florida.
The precise direction of track is also uncertain, as some models show a strong tropical storm or weaker hurricane Elsa tracking towards the east of the Florida peninsula, while others show a stronger Elsa tracking to the west of Florida and either heading for a Panhandle or Gulf Coast landfall.
Other models show anything in between the two edges of the cone and uncertainty remains high at this stage, but hurricane Elsa remains a storm that insurance, reinsurance, catastrophe bond and insurance-linked securities (ILS) interests will watch closely over the weekend.
Hurricane Elsa continues to move very fast, which adds to the uncertainty, as quicker moving tropical storms can intensify less than those that move slowly and so spend more time over warmer waters.
But the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico are plenty warm enough for hurricane Elsa to continue strengthening if environmental conditions remain conducive.
Wind shear is relatively light in the storms path, but may pick up as hurricane Elsa nears Cuba and Florida, adding to the uncertainty in the forecasts at this time.
NOAA continues to say that additional strengthening is forecast for hurricane Elsa, but isn’t drawn on how much we can expect.
Meanwhile modelled intensity guidance continues to show Elsa as anything from a mid-strength tropical storm to a Category 2 (possibly even 3) hurricane by the time it approaches Florida, a wide spread of uncertainty persists, as shown below in the graphic from Tropical Tidbits.
It is interesting to note how this intensity guidance reflects uncertainty in the models and the potential for wind shear to increase over the weekend. But then also shows a possible resurgence in intensity next week.
Also below, you can see a couple of additional forecast models from Tropical Tidbits, which demonstrate the difference in suggested paths and tracks for tropical storm Elsa, ranging from a Florida peninsula landfall to the Gulf Coast. There is a particularly wide spread of uncertainty in the forecast models at this time.
Insurance, reinsurance, cat bond and ILS interests will be watching this storm closely, as the first threat of the 2021 hurricane season.
Warnings are in effect for the islands of Barbados, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The NHC notes that hurricane conditions are occurring on Barbados, with a 1 to 3 foot storm surge possible, and rainfall totals of up to 10 inches for the windward islands.
How much of a threat is impossible to say, given all of the factors adding uncertainty into the forecasts.
But Elsa is definitely a hurricane to watch over the coming weekend.
Insurance, reinsurance and ILS market interests can keep track of it over on our 2021 Atlantic hurricane season page and we’ll update you should a more significant threat develop.