Hurricane Elsa weakens slightly, tracking west of Surfside condo collapse: reports

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Hurricane Elsa weakened slightly early Saturday as it continued barreling through the Caribbean on its way to Florida, according to reports.

The hurricane was following a path that was expected to carry it west of the partial condo collapse in Surfside, Florida, by the time it reaches the state early Tuesday as a tropical storm, the Sun Sentinel of South Florida reported.

After posting wind gusts of 85 miles per hour late Friday as it neared Hispaniola, Elsa’s winds slowed to about 80 mph early Saturday, the National Hurricane Center said in a 2 a.m. advisory.

Elsa was about 285 miles east-southeast of Isla Beata, Dominican Republic, and 620 miles east-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica, the advisory said. It was advancing at a speed of about 29 miles per hour, the hurricane center said.

The hurricane was expected to slow to tropical storm status by the time it reaches Cuba, according to the hurricane center.

In Florida, Broward Mayor Steve Geller was urging residents to stock up now on items such as water, non-perishable food and batteries, rather than waiting until later in the hurricane season, the Sun Sentinel reported.

“We’ve all been there before and we know people have a tendency to wait,” Geller said, according to the newspaper. ” … Please prepare now for the entire hurricane season.”

This satellite image provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows Hurricane Elsa moving through the Caribbean, over Barbados. Elsa was expected to pass near the southern coast of Hispaniola on Saturday and to move near Jamaica and portions of eastern Cuba on Sunday. (Associated Press)

Haiti, the nation on the western portion of Hispaniola, is vulnerable to floods and landslides when storms hit because of erosion and deforestation, The Associated Press reported. Authorities there urged residents to evacuate if they lived near water or mountain flanks, according to the AP.

“The whole country is threatened by this hurricane,” the Civil Protection Agency said in a statement. “Make every effort to escape before it’s too late.”

In the Dominican Republic, on the eastern side of Hispaniola, officials opened more than 2,400 shelters as heavy rains were expected to begin early Saturday.

According to the hurricane center, hurricane-force winds extend 25 miles from Elsa’s center while tropical-storm-force winds extend 150 miles from the hurricane’s center.

The storm reached hurricane strength Friday morning.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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