Tropical Storm Elsa continues to drift north across the eastern United States on Thursday and is taking aim at New Jersey, where it is expected to dump several inches of rain, generate big waves and dangerous surf conditions and pound the Jersey Shore with strong winds.
A tropical storm warning has been issued for five New Jersey counties and a flash flood watch is active in all of the state’s 21 counties.
Here’s a look at the storm’s timing, rainfall projections, wind speed, warnings and advisories as of late Thursday morning.
Where is Tropical Storm Elsa?
As of 11 a.m. Thursday, Tropical Storm Elsa was moving across northern South Carolina and into North Carolina, with its center located about 80 miles southwest of Raleigh, North Carolina and about 500 miles southwest of Atlantic City.
Elsa was moving northeast at a pace of 20 mph and was packing sustained winds of 45 mph, with stronger gusts. Elsa actually gained some strength during the past few hours, with its top winds increasing from 40 mph to 45 mph.
When will Tropical Storm Elsa hit N.J.?
After moving through North Carolina Thursday morning and afternoon, Elsa is expected to drift across eastern Virginia and approach southern Delaware and southeastern New Jersey late Thursday night into early Friday morning. Forecasters say Elsa will likely accelerate and move northeast, away from New Jersey and towards eastern Long Island, New York, late Friday morning.
When will the strongest winds arrive?
The National Weather Service says tropical storm-force winds — sustained at 39 mph or higher, with gusts up to 45 to 50 mph — could begin blowing along the Jersey Shore as early as Thursday night. As of now, forecasters say the most likely arrival time will be between midnight tonight and 2 a.m. Friday.
“The greatest threat for tropical storm-force winds will be along the coast and marine areas,” the weather service said. “However, there is a chance these strong winds could reach farther inland.”
When will the rain arrive?
The National Weather Service says scattered showers and thunderstorms coming from a trough of low pressure from the Great Lakes region stretching into central Pennsylvania — not from the tropical storm — will likely start in parts of the Garden State early Thursday afternoon and continue into Thursday evening. Rain is expected to get heavier after midnight, as Tropical Storm Elsa moves closer to South Jersey.
How much rain will fall?
Forecasters say most areas of New Jersey will get a total of 2 to 4 inches of rain from the afternoon showers and the tropical storm, but the northwestern region of the state is expected to get 1 to 2 inches. The weather service and other forecasters say there could be some isolated pockets of 5 to 6 inches of rain.
In general, areas closest to the center of the storm will likely get the most rain, and areas farther west of the center will get the lowest amounts.
How bad will it be at the Jersey Shore?
The National Weather Service says surf conditions will be rough, with big waves, increased swells and a high risk of dangerous rip currents. Boaters should expect dangerous conditions off the New Jersey coast, with seas building to 6 to 9 feet during the storm.
When will the worst conditions occur?
Forecasters believe the heaviest rain and strongest winds will occur during the early-morning hours on Friday, mainly between midnight and 8 a.m. But there will be some periods of heavy rain Thursday evening and Thursday night.
Where have warnings been issued?
A tropical storm warning is in effect for Atlantic, Cape May, Monmouth and Ocean counties, along with southeastern Burlington County. The warning will be active until further notice.
A flash flood watch is in effect in all 21 counties in New Jersey: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Hudson, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Union and Warren. The watch is active until noon on Friday.
Update (2:25 p.m.): A severe thunderstorm watch has been issued for Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union and Warren counties, effective until 9 p.m. Thursday.
A cluster of strong thunderstorms was moving across parts of northern New Jersey at 2:15 p.m., and News 12 New Jersey was reporting golfball-size hail in Bergen County.
Is there a tornado threat?
The National Weather Service says there is a small chance of an isolated tornado spinning up as the tropical storm moves across New Jersey overnight Thursday into early Friday.
Will there be a big storm surge?
Forecasters are expecting no major storm surge along the Jersey Shore, mainly because the bulk of Tropical Storm Elsa will be approaching the state from land rather than building up strength over the ocean and blowing large amounts of water onto the shore.
Current weather radar
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Len Melisurgo may be reached at LMelisurgo@njadvancemedia.com.