Deadly Erika May Weaken Before Reaching Florida on Monday

Deadly Tropical Storm Erika may weaken as it passes over the mountains of the Dominican Republic Friday before continuing on a path that may bring it to Florida on Monday.

Erika was 90 miles (144 kilometers) east-southeast of Santa Domingo with maximum winds of 50 miles per hour, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in an 8 a.m. New York time advisory. The storm is blamed for the deaths of at least four people on the Caribbean island of Dominica, the Associated Press reported.

“Some weakening is forecast today as Erika moves over land, followed by little change in strength Saturday,” Jack Beven, a senior hurricane specialist at the center in Miami, wrote in a forecast analysis.

Erika’s path across Hispaniola, home to Haiti and the Dominican Republic, may rob the storm of much of its strength and prevent it from becoming more powerful. The center now says the storm will not grow into a hurricane, after earlier outlooks said such strengthening was possible.

Forecasts show Erika striking the tip of Florida Monday and traveling the length of the state through Wednesday. The Florida Division of Emergency Management has warned residents to be ready.

‘Worst Track’

The storm is following “the worst track possible” for growing stronger, Joe Bastardi, a meteorologist with Weather Bell Analytics LLC, said in a note to clients Friday.

“The threat of the northward turn is greatly diminished and with it, the major threat for the east coast of Florida and the Bahamas.”

Erika, the fifth named storm of the six-month Atlantic season, has brought flooding rains across the Caribbean. The storm was forecast to drop from 4 to 8 inches (10-20 centimeters) of rain in Puerto Rico, parts of the Virgin Island and across the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the center said.

Some areas may get as much as 12 inches from Erika. High winds and rain are also forecast to reach the Turks and Caicos, as well as the central and northwestern Bahamas through the weekend.

A Hurricane Hunter airplane is on its way to the storm to gather more data.