Tropical Storm Elsa strengthened into a hurricane on Friday, and warnings were issued for the eastern islands of the Caribbean, the National Hurricane Center said.
As of 7:45 a.m. Eastern time, the hurricane, with sustained winds of nearly 75 miles per hour, was 20 miles west-southwest of Barbados and moving west-northwest at 28 m.p.h.
A hurricane warning was in effect for Barbados, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. A hurricane watch, in which hurricane conditions are possible but are not expected, was in effect for parts of the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
Elsa could also affect the Florida Keys and other parts of Florida early next week, the center said. The storm is being watched closely in South Florida, where a desperate search for survivors of a collapsed condo building near Miami continues.
Elsa, the fifth named storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, formed as a tropical storm on Thursday.
Ana became the first named storm of the season on May 23, making this the seventh year in a row that a named storm developed in the Atlantic before the official start of the season on June 1.
The links between hurricanes and climate change are becoming more apparent. A warming planet can expect to experience stronger hurricanes over time, and a higher incidence of the most powerful storms — though the overall number of storms may drop, because factors like stronger wind shear might keep weaker storms from forming.
Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast that there would be 13 to 20 named storms this year, six to 10 of which would be hurricanes, and three to five major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher in the Atlantic.
Last year, there were 30 named storms, including six major hurricanes, causing meteorologists to exhaust the alphabet for the second time and move to using Greek letters.
It was the highest number of storms on record, surpassing the 28 storms in 2005, and included the second-highest number of hurricanes on record
Johnny Diaz, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Daniel Victor, Chris Stanford and Isabella Grullón Paz contributed reporting.