Tropical Storm Elsa is expected to pass this way Wednesday, bringing a daylong deluge accompanied by high winds and the possibility of downed trees and utility lines throughout the Golden Isles, said Glynn County Emergency Management Agency Director Alec Eaton.
“We’re looking at the potential onset of tropical storm gust winds Wednesday into the afternoon,” Eaton said at noon Tuesday. “By Wednesday night, the storm should be north of us. Right now, we’re basically looking at a cloudy, rainy and windy day. I feel confident we can sit down and let it pass over us without any major impacts. Hopefully.”
With these circumstances in mind, Eaton extends this request to Golden Islanders: Hunker down. He advises residents to stay home if possible and avoid travel on roadways.
“We’re asking people to stay in and limit their travel throughout the day,” Eaton said.
Elsa will likely bring sustained winds approaching tropical storm force at 35 to 40 mph throughout the day, according to the National Weather Service in Jacksonville. Winds gusts up to 57 mph are possible, said weather service meteorologist Will Corless.
The worst of Elsa will have moved on by late Wednesday night, he said, although sustained winds of 15 to 20 mph and gusts of 25 mph can be expected along the coast as Elsa moves into Carolinas, Corless said.
From 2 to 4 inches of rain is forecast Wednesday for Glynn County, with up to 6 inches of rainfall possible in concentrated locations, he said.
No significant storm surge is expected from Elsa, Eaton said. High tides at St. Simons Island will occur Wednesday at 7:17 a.m. and again at 7:35 p.m.
The National Weather Services has issued a flood watch in Glynn County due to the steady rainfall that is forecast.
“We do have y’all under a flood watch,” Corless said Tuesday afternoon. “With the storm’s current track and rate of travel, by 6 p.m. y’all should be in the thick of it. After 10 or 11 p.m., Elsa will be moving out of there, but there will be some trailing winds along the coast.”
The state Department of Transportation may order the closing of Sidney Lanier Bridge, which spans the Brunswick River between the city and southern Glynn County, Eaton said. The DOT closes the bridge when sustained winds enter tropical storm force of 39 mph or greater.
Out in the St. Simons Sound on Tuesday, the towering VB 10,000 crane vessel moved into position over the eastern portion of the half-submerged remains of the shipwreckaed Golden Ray. The positioning of the 255-foot-tall crane vessel and the shipwreck is a strategic measure in keeping with the salvage operation’s storm safety and preparedness plan, said U.S. Coast Guardsman Michael Himes, spokesman for Unified Command.
A 3,640-metric-ton section of the shipwreck was towed out of the sound via dry dock barge Monday, reaching its destination later that day at a dismantling facility in Brunswick between the East River and Bay Street.
A cutting chain powered by the VB 10,000’s system of winches, rigging and pulleys completed an eight-week effort Thursday to sever Section 3.
When Elsa passes, salvors will begin preparations for cutting away a large section at the western end of the shipwreck, Himes said.
About 227 feet of the shipwreck remains between St. Simons and Jekyll islands, leaving two cuts and three sections to remove it completely from the sound.
“We are securing vessels and equipment in accordance with our heavy weather procedures in keeping with the tropical storm watch for this area,” Himes said. “We will return to refitting operations on the VB 10,000 in preparation for cutting Section 6 once any effects from Elsa subside and our assessment teams ensure the overall safety of the wreck site.”
As of 11 a.m. Tuesday, Tropical Storm Elsa was located in the Gulf of Mexico off the southern tip of Florida, 190 miles south of Tampa. The storm carried sustained tropical storm force winds of 70 mph as it moved north to northwest at 10 mph. Hurricane force begins at 74 mph sustained winds.
Elsa was expected to make landfall on the Gulf Coast of Florida above Tampa at around 8 a.m. Wednesday, weakening over land as it moves northeast across the state and into the Georgia coast through the afternoon and evening, according to forecasts.
“As Elsa approaches, y’all are in the path of the leading northeast side of the storm, which is typically where you find the strongest winds,” Corless said.
As the 2021 hurricane season progresses, Eaton said Elsa should serve as a reminder to be prepared for possibly stronger named storms in the months ahead.
“This is a good indicator to make sure your disaster kits are up to date and that you have plans set in the event of evacuations,” Eaton said.