Tropical storm pounds US east coast

Elsa seemed to spare Florida from significant damage but damage from the storm left one man dead.
Elsa seemed to spare Florida from significant damage but damage from the storm left one man dead.

Tropical Storm Elsa has carved a destructive and soaking path up the eastern United States after killing at least one person in Florida and spinning up a tornado at a Georgia naval base that flipped recreational vehicles upside-down and blew one of them into a lake.

Elsa's winds strengthened on Thursday to 85km/h, as the storm dropped heavy rains on parts of North Carolina and Virginia, the US National Hurricane Center said in its latest update.

Elsa was expected to pass near the eastern mid-Atlantic states by Thursday night and move near or over the northeastern United States on Friday.

Forecasters said Elsa could cause considerable flash flooding and urban flooding as it moves close to the northeast.

Tropical storm warnings were in effect along the coast from North Carolina to Connecticut.

Elsa seemed to spare Florida from significant damage, though it still threatened flooding downpours and caused several tornado warnings. Forecasters predicted Elsa would remain a tropical storm into Friday.

Authorities in Jacksonville, Florida, said a navy airman was killed on Wednesday when a tree fell during heavy rain and struck two cars. Forecasters reported 80km/h gusts in the city.

Nine people were injured on Wednesday evening in coastal Camden County, Georgia, when a tornado struck a campground for at Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base.

The tornado flipped over multiple RVs, throwing one of the overturned vehicles about about 60 metres into a lake, the National Weather Service said.

Some buildings were also damaged on the base, which is the east coast hub for the navy's fleet of nuclear-armed submarines.

Elsa is the earliest fifth-named storm on record, said Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami.

Australian Associated Press