Elsa weakens to tropical storm, makes landfall on Florida Gulf coast

Waves crash against the balustrades on Bayshore Boulevard during high tide after Tropical Storm Elsa churns up the Gulf coast, in Tampa, Florida. PHOTO: REUTERS

TAMPA, FLORIDA (REUTERS) - Elsa weakened to a tropical storm early on Wednesday (July 7) before making landfall on the north Florida Gulf coast, the US National Hurricane Centre said.

It had strengthened to a hurricane, the first of the season, on Tuesday night before weakening again as it moved north parallel to Florida's west coast, sparing the state from some of the serious harm authorities had braced for.

"Clearly this could have been worse," Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said at a news briefing on Wednesday.

There were no reports of injuries or major structural damage, though there still remained a risk of tornadoes, he said.

About 26,000 customers had lost their power across Florida.

In Tampa, some residents were out for an early morning jog along the shore as grey clouds parted.

The storm was making landfall in Taylor County with maximum sustained winds of 100kmh, the NHC said in an advisory.

Elsa also briefly strengthened to a hurricane last week, when it killed at least three people, blew roofs off homes, toppled trees and sparked flooding in Caribbean island nations east of Cuba.

Hurricane warnings that had been issued along a stretch of Florida's west coast were downgraded to tropical storm warnings.

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