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Tropical Storm Elsa forms in the Atlantic and could near the Florida Peninsula by next week

By Derek Van Dam and Taylor Ward, CNN Meteorologists

Tropical Storm Elsa is still several days from potentially nearing Florida — possibly around the site of the deadly condo collapse — as the third storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season to threaten land in the US.

“It is too soon to determine what, if any, impacts could occur there next week given the uncertainty in the long-range forecast,” the National Hurricane Center said.

Elsa strengthened early Thursday into a tropical storm with winds of 40 mph. It was 865 miles east-southeast of the Windward Islands and racing west at 25 mph.

A tropical storm warning is in effect for St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Barbados and Martinique. A tropical storm watch is in effect for Guadeloupe.

Elsa, which is already spawning memes for the name it shares with Disney’s “Frozen” princess, will pass near or over portions of the Windward Islands on Friday, bringing gusty winds and up to 8 inches of rainfall. It will then move into the eastern Caribbean Sea late Friday and Friday night, and move near the southern coast of Hispaniola on Saturday.

While the storm will bring tropical storm-force winds and heavy rain to the islands Friday, the fast movement could also limit the flood potential.

Early-season formation in the Atlantic’s Main Development Region

What makes this unique is when and where this activity is developing.

As the calendar turns from June to July, climatology indicates a significant increase in tropical formation across the Atlantic Ocean’s Main Development Region (MDR).

It is however, unusual to see activity within this region this early in the hurricane season.

The MDR is roughly encompassed by the waters off west Africa through the Caribbean to Central America. It historically experiences an uptick in tropical activity between July and September because of warmer ocean waters, relaxing vertical wind shear and weaker trade winds.

These are all contributing factors to what the National Hurricane Center believes will be another above-average hurricane season.

Above-average season off to a weak start

Even though the 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season has amassed four named storms, they have been short-lived and relatively weak.

One way meteorologists quantify how active or inactive a hurricane season has been is by tracking the Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE). ACE is a parameter that takes the overall seasonal activity (to date) and combines “intensity and duration of Atlantic named storms and hurricanes,” according to the Climate Prediction Center.

So far this season, the ACE index stands at 3.3, with a mere 5.25 named storm days. If Elsa progresses as predicted, it will begin a steady march toward the forecast above-average season.

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CNN’s Monica Garrett contributed to this report.

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