Tampa Racetrack Closes as Elsa Churns Toward Florida Coast

Posted on: July 6, 2021, 01:39h. 

Last updated on: July 6, 2021, 04:34h.

As Tropical Storm Elsa barreled toward the Florida Gulf Coast on Tuesday, a Tampa horse track shut down its operations out of precaution.

Tropical Storm Elsa path
This televised graphic shows Tropical Storm Elsa’s path as it scrapes Florida’s west coast before racing up the Atlantic coastline. A Tampa racetrack closed Tuesday in anticipation of severe weather. (Image: WWSB-TV)

The Tampa Bay Downs racetrack announced on Facebook Tuesday that its Silks Poker Room and TGT Poker and Racebook were closing at 6:30 pm “due to the expected weather conditions.” Live racing already has ended for the season.

The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa was still open late Tuesday afternoon, according to its website. A Tampa Bay Times newspaper list of closures in the area did not include the casino. A telephone reservations operator told Casino.org she was unaware of any immediate plans to close the resort on Tuesday.

With severe weather approaching, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) declared a state of emergency for the counties in the Tampa area, according to the Axios news service. Elsa is expected to make landfall by Wednesday, with storm surges, powerful winds, and possible tornadoes.

Storm Impacting Miami Rescue, Sports

One concern with the storm is its potential to dump eight inches or more of rain on places such as Tampa and St. Petersburg along Florida’s west coast. The storm’s rain bands were even expected to extend eastward toward the Miami area, hampering rescue workers removing rubble at a collapsed condominium site in Surfside.

Back on the Gulf Coast, the storm was having an impact on sporting events. Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays postponed Tuesday’s game against the Cleveland Indians. The game has been rescheduled as part of a doubleheader on Wednesday, beginning at 12:10 pm, according to the Rays’ website. 

By Tuesday afternoon, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s front office had not announced any changes to Wednesday’s scheduled Stanley Cup finals home game. Tampa’s NHL team is facing the Montreal Canadiens in a best-of-seven series for the cup. The Canadiens defeated the Lightning in Montreal during overtime on Monday. Tampa Bay leads the series 3-1.

Deadly Impact

Until Saturday morning, Elsa was a Category 1 hurricane, with wind speeds topping 74 mph, making it the season’s first hurricane, according to the Associated Press. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.

With strong winds and heavy rainfall, Elsa ripped through the Caribbean over the past few days, killing at least three people. By early Tuesday, it had blasted through Cuba before heading back out onto open water.

Though its windspeed had dipped below the minimum Category 1 hurricane level of 74 mph, Elsa had the potential to develop into a hurricane again as it rushed up the Gulf of Mexico toward Florida’s west coast. Later in the week, its remnants were expected to soak the states along the Atlantic shoreline. 

Destructive Storm Season 

Elsa is the earliest fifth-named storm on record. Other storms this year include Ana, Bill, Claudette, and Danny. The previous earliest fifth storm, Edouard, formed last year on July 6, according to WFLA-TV.

Elsa also broke the record as the tropics’ fastest-moving hurricane, at 31 mph on Saturday morning, Brian McNoldy of the University of Miami told the Associated Press.

This year, 18 named storms are predicted to develop in the Atlantic Basin during hurricane season. The average from 1991 to 2020 has been 15. As many as five of these storms this year are projected to be major hurricanes. Last year, several destructive storms battered Louisiana and Mississippi.

Colorado State University scientists said one reason for this increase in storms is that warmer-than-average Atlantic waters are “providing fuel” for the turbulent weather, according to CBS News.