How Will Tropical Storm Erika Affect Florida? Batten Down The Hatches, It's About To Get Wet
Weather forecasters are warning the Southeast coast, especially Florida, to prepare for a storm working its way up the Atlantic. Tropical Storm Erika was still "poorly organized" on Thursday, but it it could reach the U.S. early next week as a Category 3 hurricane. If the storm does strengthen, forecasters are worried about what Erika could do to Florida. Although it's not likely to be catastrophic, Floridians might not be prepared, since the Sunshine State hasn't had a hurricane in 10 years.
There are two possibilities for Tropical Storm Erika's impact. If it travels more to the west, and manages to survive a somewhat hostile environment of dry air and vertical wind shear in the Atlantic, it could move over the southern Florida peninsula late Sunday or Monday. In this case, the storm wouldn't have much time to gain strength over the warm water in the Caribbean Sea, so southern Florida would only experience heavy rain.
On the other hand, Erika could stay to the east of Florida and travel up toward the coasts of South and North Carolina in the middle of next week. In this scenario, the storm is more likely to become a hurricane, because it would be over warm water for a longer period of time. According to NBC News, it could be as bad as a Category 3 hurricane, with wind speeds of at least 111 mph. Florida would likely experience strong winds, high surf, rip currents, and beach erosion, but not catastrophic damage.
Erika remained in the eastern Caribbean Sea Thursday, bringing heavy rain to the Leeward Islands. The island of Dominica has experienced the worst of it, with heavy flooding and mudslides that have killed four. The rainfall is expected to move over Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands before possibly reaching Florida. Because it's still several days out, it's too soon to tell whether or not Erika will actually reach the U.S.
Nevertheless, forecasters have warned officials in the southwest and Florida to keep an eye on the storm. According to The Orlando Sentinel, Floridians may not be ready, since they haven't had to deal with something like this in a decade. National Weather Service meteorologist Will Ulrich warned Floridians to get a hurricane preparedness plan together, just in case Erika does turn into a hurricane over the state, or in the event another storm threatens the state in the future. Ulrich told The Sentinel: "We hope, regardless of this tropical system or any tropical system, people already have a plan in place."