Elsa Strengthens, Hurricane Alert, Tampa Closes Airport

The Weather Channel reports:

Tropical Storm Elsa is gaining strength in the Gulf of Mexico and may scrape Florida’s west coast, including parts of the Tampa-St. Petersburg metro, as a hurricane through early Wednesday with storm surge, high winds, flooding rain and isolated tornadoes.

Early Tuesday afternoon, the Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters found flight-level winds in Elsa were stronger and its surface pressure lower as Elsa attempted to fight off both dry air and wind shear typically hostile for intensification.

This prompted the NHC to issue hurricane warnings for areas near the west coast of Florida from Tampa Bay northward to Steinhatchee. This warning, meaning hurricane conditions are expected, includes Tampa, St. Petersburg and Cedar Key.

Tampa’s Fox News affiliate reports:

With Tropical Storm Elsa likely to bring winds of 70 mph or higher, Tampa International Airport will be suspending operations beginning Tuesday afternoon.

Forecasters say conditions in Tampa will begin to deteriorate Tuesday afternoon as the storm approaches. So passenger flights will be suspended at 5 p.m. Tuesday, and cargo flights will stop at 10 p.m.

Officials say travelers should coordinate with their airlines to get up-to-date flight schedules over the next two to three days. They also discouraged anyone from coming to the airport for shelter during the storm.