NEW YORK — After soaking several Southeast states, Tropical Storm Elsa is quickly making its way up the East Coast and heading for New York and New Jersey.
On Wednesday, Elsa left at least one person dead in Florida and then spun up a possible tornado at a Georgia Navy base that flipped recreational vehicles upside down and injured several people.
By Thursday morning, Elsa dropped torrential rains over South Carolina and was expected to move over North Carolina by the afternoon. The storm should pass near the eastern mid-Atlantic states by Thursday evening before moving into the tri-state region.
Tropical Storm Warnings have been issued for the Jersey Shore and for Long Island. While the city is not included in the warning, it is under a Flash Flood Watch along with the entire region as the storm will produce torrential downpours on what is already a saturated ground.
The storms associated with a frontal boundary will diminish in the evening. These storms produced flash flooding closing area roadways as radar estimates of over 3 inches fell in a very short period. There were even reports of tennis-sized hail across parts of Bergen County from a slow-moving thunderstorm in the afternoon.
During the overnight hours, the steadier rain associated with Elsa will arrive and it will be heavy. The morning commute on Friday could be awful as drenching downpours occur and cause additional flooding. The storm will be fast mover, and that could allow the rain to taper off late in the morning on Friday. As much as 1-3″ could fall quickly within a span of 6 hours.
Along coastal sections, the winds will be on the strong side, getting close to tropical storm strength of 39 mph at times. That was good enough for Tropical Storm Warnings to be issued for parts of the region. Any small or lightweight items could get blown away by the winds.
At the area beaches, the rough surf will cause some erosion as well as rip currents through Friday. Fortunately, the quick moving storm won’t produce a storm surge along the coast.
While a very low risk, the threat of tornadoes will be on the table. By nature, tropical cyclones can spin out a tornado and Elsa is no exception. A number of tornadoes associated with the cycle have been reported stretching from Northeast Florida to the Carolinas.
Lastly, Tropical Storm Elsa could cause several power outages. The strong winds may bring down some tree limbs causing scattered power outages through Friday morning.
Elsa timeline for NY, NJ
The National Weather Service has already issued tropical storm warnings for Long Island and most of the New Jersey coast.
Flash flood watches are in effect until Friday afternoon for New York City, Long Island, areas north of the city and much of New Jersey.
The first showers in our area associated with Elsa moved in as early as Thursday afternoon, with more scattered thunderstorms likely into the evening.
The brunt of Elsa’s rain and wind will sweep through the tri-state region during the overnight hours and into Friday morning.
This is the period when torrential downpours could develop, leading to possible flash flooding on roadways in our area. Local rivers and streams could end up overflowing before sunrise, as well.
Fortunately, coastal sections will not have to deal with a storm surge, but beach erosion and rough surf is a real possibility.
The heaviest downpours might end up tapering off Friday morning, but we’re not out of the woods just yet. A cold front to the west could bring additional showers and storms late in the afternoon and into the evening Friday.
Rainfall amounts will vary depending on Elsa’s track and the approaching cold front.
As much as 2 to 3 inches will be possible in general, but some local areas could also get over 3 inches, according to the National Weather Service.
Expected wind speeds
In terms of the winds, the worst will likely occur offshore, but tropical storm-force winds in excess of 39 mph could occur late Thursday and early Friday in coastal areas currently under the tropical storm warnings.
Power outages will be a concern for many, while any lightweight items outside could get blown away amid the gusty winds.
Long Island prepares for the storm
As the storm approaches the tri-state area, Nassau County officials discussed the Long Island area’s preparedness for the storm.
Nassau County’s emergency management team is well equipped to respond to disasters and storms, according to Nassau Executive Laura Curran.
Since Superstorm Sandy, the county has made emergency preparedness improvements, including adding disaster monitoring consultants.
Anyone who loses power is urged to contact PSEG Long Island. The electric company has added about 1,000 out-of-state workers and provided additional resources.
PSEG wants “to get it right” following the outage issues Long Island residents faced following Tropical Storm Isaias last summer.
“They know how incredibly important it is to get it right because of last year,” Curran said.
To report outages or downed wires, call PSEG’s 24-hour hotline at 800-490-0075.
NJ braces for Elsa
Heavy rains and strong winds were enough to clear out the beach in Long Branch on Thursday. What started as a sunny, hot day quickly gave way to whipping winds and heavy rain.
Beachgoers, with their towels over their heads, rapidly made their way to the boardwalk after the weather forced them pack up and leave.
“I’ll probably get something to eat, a quick lunch, anything inside right now,” said one man.
Sisters Barbara and Peggy Maietta knew what to expect beforehand.
“We vacation down here every summer so we’re used to these storms,” Barbara said. “Actually, we look forward to them to get out of the sun.”
Peggy brought in the cushions from her outdoor patio furniture in preparation. They’re both looking forward to the cooler weather.
“We’re hoping it does break the heat and it just goes back to regular,” Barbara added. “Low humidity, low 80’s. It’s perfect down here.”
As the weather ramped up, waves came crashing harder, but it didn’t stop some from going for a sail.
Others sought shelter on their balcony.
For businesses on the beach, like Playa Bowls, they need to make adjustments in times like these because foot traffic is slow.
“We will typically call people out because we don’t need the extra work,” an employee said.
While the weather may have cut Thursday’s beach day short, Pamela Carrara and her friends say there’s always Friday.
“We’re just trying to have a good time and if the storm comes, we’ll figure it out,” Carrara said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.