Florida Prepares for Possible Hurricane Erika on Monday

By | August 27, 2015

Florida advised residents and tourists to check disaster kits and escape plans as chances rise the state will face its first hurricane strike in 10 years.

Tropical Storm Erika, which has triggered storm watches and warnings throughout the Caribbean Leeward Islands, was about 30 miles (45 kilometers) southeast of Antigua, moving west at 16 miles per hour with top winds of 50 mph, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in a 5 a.m. New York time advisory.

The five-day track, which can err by more than 240 miles, shows the storm grazing southern Florida as a Category 1 hurricane on Monday.

“Too many variables still exist for us to be able to accurately predict where this storm might impact us or how strong it may be if it does,” Bryan W. Koon, Florida Division of Emergency Management director, said in a statement. “We are preparing the protective and responsive measures we will need if the storm continues to develop out of an abundance of caution.”

Erika, the fifth storm of the six-month Atlantic season, would be the first hurricane to hit Florida since 2005 if it isn’t ripped apart by wind shear and weakened by dry air. Orange juice futures rose as the state is the largest producer in the U.S.

Heavy Rain

Tropical storm-strength winds of at least 39 mph are forecast to buffet the Leeward Islands, which includes Antigua and Barbuda, Wednesday and hit Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands Thursday, the hurricane center said. Erika may drop 3 to 5 inches (8-13 centimeters) of rain on the Caribbean islands, and some places may get as much as 8 inches through Friday.

Storm warnings and watches cover the Leeward Islands and stretch to Puerto Rico, parts of the Dominican Republic and the southeastern Bahamas, according to the center.

Erika is encountering an area of wind shear that will probably keep it from strengthening much in the next three days, Daniel Brown, a warning coordination meteorologist at the center, wrote in a forecast analysis. After that, the storm may continue to grow.

At least one computer forecast model calls for Erika to fall apart and never reach Florida at all, Brown wrote.

“The amount of strengthening on days 4-5 will be dependent in part on how Erika responds to the preceding unfavorable shear,” Brown said.

In the Pacific, Tropical Storm Ignacio is forecast to become a hurricane Thursday as it keeps moving toward the Hawaiian Islands. It was 1,365 miles east-southeast of Hilo, moving west at 12 mph, the center said.

A tropical depression has also formed off Mexico’s Pacific coast with top winds of 30 mph. Winds have to reach 39 mph before the storm is given a name.

–With assistance from Megan Durisin in Chicago and Lynn Doan in San Francisco.

Topics Catastrophe Natural Disasters Florida Hurricane

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