Sloppy Elsa sets records

ELSA makes a mess of streets in Florida, photo courtesy of NBC News
ELSA makes a mess of streets in Florida, photo courtesy of NBC News

Hurricane Elsa made landfall this morning in the ‘neck’ of Florida after a start in the Atlantic and fast travels across the Caribbean. You can see the tropical storm (orange) and hurricane (red) winds showing Elsa’s path:

NHC graphic showing ELSA's winds

Let alone that Elsa was the EARLIEST fifth-named storm on record (forming on July 1 beating out last year’s Tropical Storm Edouard which formed July 6), this tropical cyclone formed in an important region of the Atlantic Basin known as the MDR -- the Main Development Region. You can see that area boxed below:

NOAA's MDR is where storms from in late summer and early fall

This is an important area that the National Hurricane Center region watches for hurricanes to form from August to October. NOT in July! Most storms will form over the Gulf or Caribbean this time of year, but Elsa had other ideas, forming farther east in the Atlantic. Dr. Phil Klotzbach noted that this hasn’t happened since 1933′s Trinidad hurricane:

So Elsa formed early and farther east AND the storm moved FAST at a record 29 mph while intensifying rapidly. That also set a record. You can see how that compares to other tropical systems forming, rapidly intensifying and how fast they moved:

Forward speed of storms from 1851-2020

I predict that Elsa will be much more remembered as the star of “Frozen” than the star of the 2021 Tropical Season, but the storm nonetheless set records and in that regard foreshadows a long 2021 for storm formation.

ELSA satellite courtesy of NOAA

Thanks to NOAA for providing great information on Elsa!


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About the Authors:

KPRC 2's chief meteorologist with three decades of experience forecasting Houston's weather.

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, social media news and local crime.