For the first time in ten years, Florida is bracing for the possibility that a hurricane may hit the state. It's only a tropical storm as of Wednesday night, but Erika could make landfall in Florida as a hurricane sometime early next week. Erika has been described as a "poorly formed" storm thus far — one that will have to make it across what are considered "hostile" waters in the Caribbean. It's also worth noting that it's still much too early to tell what impact Erika will have on the coastal U.S., according to the National Weather Service. But some officials in Florida are concerned that since it's been so long since Floridians have seen an honest-to-goodness hurricane, they may be a little off their game when it comes to preparedness.
Manny Soto, the emergency manager for Orlando, told the Orlando Sentinel that the start of hurricane season used to have people in Florida on alert, even without an imminent threat: "People wanted to know about it; people wanted to be prepared." But the relative calm of the past decade have led Floridians to think "it's not going to affect us," Soto said.
Expected to hit the Leeward Islands sometime Thursday, Erika is a fast-moving storm, according to the Weather Service, but will run into dry air and vertical wind shear, both of which could slow her path. Those were the two factors that contributed to her predecessor, Hurricane Danny, having such a short life span.
Some areas where Erika is forecast to pass through, including the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, are actually in drought conditions and would benefit from some rain.
If it survives the Caribbean waters, Erika's future is still uncertain, the Weather Service said, but the earliest it might affect the southeastern U.S. would be early to mid-next week. Weather Channel meteorologist Jim Cantore, who is really the reigning storm expert, tweeted an image of Erika Wednesday afternoon that appeared to show the storm weakening significantly.
However, later Wednesday night, Cantore tweeted another image which showed the storm had regained some strength and was once again a little more organized.
While it's far from time to panic about Erika, it definitely bears keeping an eye on over the next couple of days. Even if it only strengthens to a Category 1 hurricane, it's still not a situation to be taken lightly.
Images: National Hurricane Center (1)