Tropical Storm Elsa quickly developed late Wednesday night as it moved slowly across the western Atlantic. It’s making a beeline for the Caribbean, possibly followed by southern Florida.

As of 5 a.m. EDT Thursday, Elsa was a low-end tropical storm, centered about 865 miles southeast of the Windward Islands and producing maximum sustained winds of 40 mph. Winds have to be 39 mph to qualify as a tropical storm.

(Map: FreightWaves SONAR Critical Events, Tropical Storm Elsa, Thursday, July 2, 2021, 5 a.m. ET. To learn more about FreightWaves SONAR, click here.)

National Hurricane Center forecasters expect winds to increase to about 60 mph by early Friday as Elsa approaches Barbados, St. Lucia, Martinique and Dominica, as well as St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The NHC has issued tropical storm warnings for these areas, with tropical storm conditions likely in the warning areas beginning Friday. Tropical storm conditions are possible Friday in Guadeloupe, where a tropical storm watch is in place.

Elsa is expected to produce rainfall totals of 3 to 6 inches Friday in the warning areas, with isolated totals of 8 inches. This may lead to localized flash flooding and mudslides.

The latest NHC outlook has Elsa remaining a tropical storm this weekend after it passes over these islands, reaching Cuba by late Sunday or Monday, followed by southern Florida late Monday or Tuesday. Elsa could strengthen into a Category 1 hurricane at some point along its journey. Anyone with shipping interests in the Caribbean, as well as shipping and trucking interests in southern Florida, should look for updates over the next several days on the FreightWaves website and social media accounts.

Impact on freight

The FreightWaves SONAR Outbound Tender Reject Index (OTRI) gauges the amount of loads offered by shippers that carriers are turning down. Carriers reject freight usually due to lack of capacity or because they found better options for positioning trucks by accepting other loads.

(Chart: FreightWaves SONAR Outbound Tender Reject Index for the Miami (OTRI.MIA) and Lakeland (OTRI.LAL) markets in southern Florida. To learn more about FreightWaves SONAR, click here.)

So, OTRI is a good indicator of capacity in any given market. The SONAR chart above indicates OTRI rates hovering around 20% for the Miami and Lakeland markets, both in southern Florida in the potential path of Tropical Storm Elsa. This is a fairly high rejection rate, indicating tight capacity and the good chance that carriers looking for loads to pick up in these areas will be able to find lower rates on the spot market compared to the contracted rates they rejected.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.

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