Officials: Storm lashing Florida strengthens into hurricane

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) – Weather forecasters say a storm that has been lashing Florida over the past day has intensified into a hurricane.

The National Weather Service said Tuesday that Hurricane Elsa was packing winds as high as 75 mph (121 kph) as it hurtled toward Florida’s northern Gulf Coast.

The Category 1 storm is expected to make landfall between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. Wednesday, somewhere between the Tampa Bay area and the Big Bend region.

It’s complicating the search effort at the collapsed condo in Surfside, and could be near hurricane strength before it makes landfall somewhere between Tampa Bay and the Big Bend.

Forecasters also warn that it could push a storm surge of water into Tampa Bay neighborhoods.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has expanded a state of emergency to cover a dozen counties.

Tampa International Airport plans to shut down Tuesday at 5 p.m.