Eastern Caribbean braces for rain, wind as Erika approaches

27 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Despite uncertainty, Miami-Dade gears up for Erika.

If Tropical Storm Erika survives a pass near Puerto Rico and Hispaniola this week, Miami-Dade County emergency managers say they’re bracing for tropical storm force winds as early as Sunday. And there were signs late Wednesday that the storm could take a turn to the north and merely brush Florida’s Atlantic coast. “Don’t board anything up. On Wednesday evening, National Hurricane Center forecasters said the storm was “poorly organized” as it encountered the same dry air and high winds that helped weaken Danny.

We’re not there yet,” said WTSP 10Weather forecaster Bobby Deskins. “Make sure you have your hurricane kit ready to go, make sure you have a plan.” The chance that Florida would see some effect from Erika was great enough, though, that state Emergency Management Director Bryan Koon on Wednesday planned to brief Gov. National Weather Service meteorologist Will Ulrich said he hopes most Floridians already have hurricane-preparedness plans in place, but after a decade without a storm, there’s a good chance many aren’t ready. That’s especially true for new residents and the younger generations, who haven’t experienced — or don’t remember — the damage a hurricane can cause, he said.

Of course, Monday is a long way away in hurricane forecast time (which is somewhat similar to dog years) and a lot of uncertainty sits between Erika and ending Florida’s historic hurricane drought in terms of whether the storm makes landfall and how strong it is. This early in the forecast, Ulrich said it’s best for people to start thinking about a plan and about the “what ifs,” just in case Erika continues on its track to Florida. Much like it’s predecessor Danny — the first hurricane of the 2015 Atlantic season — Erika is forecast to pass through the northeastern Caribbean.

The five-day forecast model for Erika — that familiar cone with a black line in the middle — shows the storm approaching southeast Florida, north of Miami, early Monday. It would then enter warmer water and more conducive weather that could help it become a hurricane before potentially hitting Central Florida on Monday. Still, forecasters warned the track could easily change because long-range projections have such a large margin of error: 180 miles by day four, and 240 miles by day five. Deskins said Erika might spin in the water off of Tampa for a few days, “which is not what we need with all the flooding we’ve had.” The region is just a couple of weeks removed from a historic run of rain that left many parts of Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough under water. The county also has beefed up information provided on its website, including storm surge software that allows residents to enter addresses to find out whether they live in an evacuation zone.

For now, Closterman said, local emergency management officials are monitoring forecasts, trying to retain as much information as possible to determine if and when to mobilize around Erika. The website also includes a list of grocery stores and gas stations outfitted with generators, which Sommerhoff said will be updated if the storm hits. “A lot of our actions will have to take place Friday to Saturday,” he said. “So the best thing to do is obviously stay tuned to the information.” Across the Caribbean, governments ordered schools, airports and even casinos shut in advance of the storm. At Wunderground, Bob Henson writes that the “overall pattern is the most favorable I’ve seen in a long time for a potential Florida landfall.” The Capital Weather Gang’s Brian McNoldy also also notes that South Florida landfall is the most likely possibility as does Eric Holthaus at Slate.

Of course, heavy rains on dry soil could also cause mudslides and other hazards so it’s a fine line between enough rain to start refilling reservoirs while avoiding catastrophe. Tropical storm watches were issued for Guadeloupe, the north coast of the Dominican Republic from Cabo Engano to Cabo Frances Viejo, the Southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

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