Tropical Storm Warning Elsa, which has weakened since becoming the season’s first hurricane, is expected to make landfall on Florida’s west coast on Wednesday.
A 200-mile (300-kilometer) area of the Gulf Coast north of Tampa Bay is under a hurricane warning.
On Monday, the hurricane wreaked havoc on Cuba, causing mudslides and flooding.
It ripped across the Dominican Republic and St Lucia earlier this year, killing at least three people and destroying hundreds of structures.
Elsa is anticipated to make landfall in Georgia and South Carolina after passing across Florida.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) indicated in an update that “Elsa is projected to make landfall over the North Florida Gulf Coast by late Wednesday morning and then travel across the south-eastern United States through Thursday.”
The storm was about 60 miles west of Tampa at 2:00 a.m. local time (06:00 a.m. GMT) and moving slowly north with gusts of 70 mph (115 km/h), according to the National Hurricane Center. On Friday, Elsa became the Atlantic season’s first hurricane, before dropping to a tropical storm. It temporarily recovered hurricane strength over the warm seas of the Gulf of Mexico after leaving Cuba but was downgraded again as it approached the Florida shore.
Commercial flights at Tampa International Airport have been canceled until at least 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday.
Florida’s Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez warned residents about the prospect of power outages and advised them to stockpile food and water. She stated that emergency shelters were available if needed.
“If you’re told to evacuate, please leave,” she implored.
On Tuesday, officials in the town of Surfside, near Miami, rushed the demolition of a partially collapsed apartment complex, fearful that Elsa would fall it in an unpredictable manner.
When the Champlain Towers South collapsed on June 24, 36 people were declared dead.
At least 109 people have gone missing. Despite the storm, officials say they plan to continue the search and rescue mission.
Elsa cut a swath of damage over the Caribbean late last week. On Saturday, at least two individuals died in the Dominican Republic when walls fell due to heavy winds.
On the island of St Lucia, one person died, while hundreds of homes were damaged in Barbados.