Tropical Storm Elsa blowing along Cuba's southern coast

Cuba evacuated 180,000 residents amid concerns that Tropical Storm Elsa, which battered several Caribbean islands and killed at least three people, could cause severe flooding.

Tropical Storm Elsa blowing along Cuba's southern coast

The Cuban government opened shelters to protect sugarcane crops and cocoa plants ahead of the storm. It was moving offshore along Cuba's southern coast late on Sunday, and was expected to land farther west Monday afternoon. Many of the evacuated people went to their relatives, while others sheltered in government facilities. Many people who lived in mountainous regions sought refuge in prepared natural caves for emergency situations.

Florida was the next target of the storm, and Gov. Ron DeSantis declared an emergency in 15 counties. This includes Miami-Dade County where a condominium building was destroyed last week.

Elsa was located approximately 270 miles (440 km) southeast of Havana, and moving northwest at 15mph (24 Kph). According to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Elsa's maximum sustained winds had increased slightly to 65 mph (100 km/h).

According to the center, the storm is expected to weaken as it passes over central Cuba Monday.

It said that Elsa will be visible over the Florida Straits, and the southeastern Gulf of Mexico. "Some slight strengthening is possible," it added.

Throughout Sunday, rain fell in Cuba's eastern regions intermittently as the storm moved by to the south.

"So far, it's a gentle, tranquil rain. There have been no downpours. The streets aren't overflowing," Yolanda Tbio, a 73 year-old Santiago retiree, said to The Associated Press. It could have been worse, I thought.

Rafael Carmenate is a volunteer for Santa Cruz del Sur's Red Cross. He told the AP via telephone that he has a small water supply -- showers. The sea has not entered. It's cloudy, windy."

According to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, one person was killed in the storm on St. Lucia. According to the Emergency Operations Center, a 15-year old boy and a 75 year-old woman were killed in separate events that occurred in the Dominican Republic on Saturday after walls collapsed.

Elsa, which was a Category 1 hurricane up until Saturday morning caused widespread damage to several eastern Caribbean islands as Friday's first hurricane of the Atlantic Season. Barbados was the worst affected, with more than 1,100 residents reporting damage to their homes, including 62 houses that were destroyed. To avoid people being forced to live in shelters during the pandemic, the government promised to fund temporary housing.

Haiti is a country that is particularly vulnerable to flooding and landslides due to its extensive erosion and deforestation. The Civil Protection Agency in Haiti reported Sunday that three people were injured by fallen trees.

A tropical storm warning was issued for western Cuba, and the Florida Keys, from Craig Key westward to Dry Tortugas. The Cuban government issued a hurricane warning to Cienfuegos, Matanzas and other provinces.

Elsa is the fifth-earliest named storm. It also holds the record for the fastest tropical hurricane. The record was set Saturday morning by Brian McNoldy at the University of Miami.

Through Monday, portions of Cuba could see rainfall amounts of 5-10 inches (13-25 centimeters) with isolated maximums of 15 inches (20 cm). Jamaica is expected to receive 4 to 8 inches (10-20 centimeters), with maximums of 15 inches (33.8 centimeters).