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Tropical Storm Elsa pounds the East Coast after killing a Navy sailor in Florida

A jogger along the Tampa shoreline as a wave breaks over a seawall
A jogger runs along the Tampa, Fla., shoreline as a wave breaks over a seawall in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Elsa.
(John Raoux / Associated Press)

Tropical Storm Elsa carved a destructive and soaking path up the East Coast after killing at least one person in Florida and spinning up a tornado at a Georgia naval base that flipped recreational vehicles upside down and blew one of them into a lake.

Elsa’s winds strengthened Thursday to 50 mph, as the storm dropped heavy rains on parts of North Carolina and Virginia, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in its latest update. Elsa was expected to pass near the eastern mid-Atlantic states by Thursday night and move near or over the northeastern United States on Friday.

No significant change in strength is expected through Friday, and Elsa is forecast to become a post-topical cyclone by Friday night, the center said.

Tropical storm warnings were in effect along the coast from North Carolina to Massachusetts. There was a chance Long Island in New York would see sustained tropical storm-force winds late Thursday night and into Friday morning, the National Weather Service in New York warned.

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The National Weather Service in Morehead City, N.C., tweeted that a tornado was spotted near Fairfield on Thursday afternoon. A tornado warning had been issued for Hyde County and surrounding counties.

Elsa seemed to spare Florida from significant damage, though it still threatened flooding downpours and caused several tornado warnings.

A heat wave in the Pacific Northwest and western Canada was virtually impossible without human-caused climate change, a study says.

Authorities in Jacksonville, Fla., said one person was killed Wednesday when a tree fell and struck two cars. A spokesperson for the Naval Air Force Atlantic office said Thursday that a sailor assigned to Patrol and Reconnaissance Squadron 16 in Jacksonville was killed.

The National Weather Service reported 50-mph wind gusts in the city. The tree fell during heavy rains, according to Capt. Eric Prosswimmer of the Jacksonville Fire Rescue Department.

Nine people were injured Wednesday evening in coastal Camden County, Ga., when a tornado struck a campground for active-duty service members and military retirees at Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base. Eight of those hurt were taken to hospitals, base spokesperson Chris Tucker said.

“We understand none of the injuries to be life-threatening,” Tucker said Thursday. “Some of those folks have already been released from the hospital, and others have been kept for further observation.”

An EF-2 tornado flipped over multiple RVs, blowing one about 200 feet into a lake, the National Weather Service said early Thursday.

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Tucker said about a dozen RVs at the campground were damaged. Some buildings were also damaged on the base, which is the East Coast hub for the Navy’s fleet of submarines armed with nuclear missiles. Tucker said there was no damage to submarines or any other military assets.

Sergio Rodriguez, who lives near the RV park, said he raced to the scene fearing that friends staying at the park might be hurt.

Excessive heat watches and warnings have been issued across Southern California, officials said, where triple-digit temperatures could soon meet very dry conditions.

“There were just RVs flipped over on their sides, pickup trucks flipped over, a couple of trailers had been shifted, and a couple of trailers were in the water,” Rodriguez said in a phone interview, referring to a pond at the site.

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In South Carolina, a Coast Guard Air Station Savannah crew rescued a family that became stranded on Otter Island on Wednesday after their boat drifted off the beach due to Elsa. A man, his wife and daughter and three cousins were hoisted into a helicopter and taken to Charleston Executive Airport in good health Wednesday night, the Coast Guard said in a news release.

The hurricane center said there was a risk of flooding in South Carolina, which was predicted to get 3 to 5 inches of rainfall.

More than 7 inches of rain were recorded at a weather station near Gainesville, Fla., the weather service reported.

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Scattered power outages were being reported along Elsa’s path Thursday afternoon, with about 26,000 homes and businesses without electricity, according to the website poweroutages.us.

Elsa is the earliest fifth-named storm on record, said Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami.


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