Tropical Storm Erika lashes Caribbean islands, heads for Florida

28 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Dominican Death Toll Rises as ‘Erika’ Reaches Hispaniola.

Haiti and the Dominican Republic braced for Tropical Storm Erika Friday morning as it churned westward on a course that could have the storm making landfall in southwest Florida Monday morning.

The deadly storm that lashed Puerto Rico with heavy rains and wind Friday after killing four people and causing devastating floods on the island of Dominica was marching westward across the Caribbean toward the Sunshine State. Authorities in Dominica had said at least four people were killed and about 20 were missing after Erika drenched the land and caused rivers to surge on the mountainous island. Forecasters no longer expected it would strike Florida as a hurricane but still considered it likely that it would reach the state as a tropical storm starting late Sunday, said Chris Landsea, a meteorologist with the US National Hurricane Center in Miami. Rick Scott said the storm constitutes a “severe threat.” It is forecast to hit Florida on Monday, but it’s not clear how strong the storm will be. “We’ve got concerns all across the state now because it’s going to be coming clear across the state,” Scott told reporters. He predicted it would be another 24 hours at least before an official count would be released. “There are additional bodies recovered but it is an ongoing operation,” Carbon said. “It will take us a couple of days to recover as many bodies as we can.

So the count will increase.” Erika is a particularly wet storm, and was expected to dump up to 8 inches (20 centimeters) of rain across the drought-stricken northern Caribbean as it headed toward the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Bahamas and the U.S. Scott encouraged families to make sure they have a disaster plan — particularly those who have moved to Florida since the last time it was struck by a hurricane a decade ago. It calls for the activation of the National Guard and gives authorities the ability to waive tolls and rules to allow emergency crews and vehicles to move throughout the state.

Scott made his declaration shortly after forecasters adjusted the trajectory of the storm to show that it’s predicted to strike the southern tip of the state and then traverse northward. Meanwhile, rescue crews in Dominica continued to search for missing and injured people after the storm dropped 15in of rain as it passed over the island. Thousands across the island remained without power. “Erika has really, really visited us with a vengeance,” Assistance Police Superintendent Claude Weekes told The Associated Press. “There are many fallen rocks and trees, and water. You’ve seen some horrific rainfall in the Caribbean with what happened in Dominica.” Erika was located about 60 miles (95 kilometers) south-southeast of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and was moving west near 18 mph (30 kph), according to the U.S. Dominica prime minister Roosevelt Skerrit urged people throughout the country to help clear streets strewn with mud and toppled trees following the storm’s passage.

Geovanny Batista cleared garbage from a ditch next to his house in an impoverished community in the capital while his wife bought food for the family. With the entire country under threat, the Civil Protection Office has been posting updates on Twitter and airing radio spots concerning the possible dangers and storm’s track. If it does survive, however, they warn Erika could still rebound Sunday when wind shear dies down and estimate winds could top 60 mph in three days by its estimated Monday landfall in Florida.

Since buses can’t operate in winds of 39 miles per hour or more, officials will monitor forecasts for the district, where more than 60,000 students ride school buses in Miami-Dade. Another factor: whether schools will be used as shelters for people who have to evacuate. “For Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the safety and security of students and staff is our number one priority, and will always be the most important factor in our decisions,” Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said in a statement.

I have lost everything and now have to start all over again.” Also in the Pacific, Jimena strengthened to a hurricane Friday morning with maximum sustained winds near 90 mph (150 kph). At the South Florida Water Management District, officials said they would decide today whether to lower water levels in canals or take other measures to control potential flooding. “[Friday] afternoon, we’ll have a pretty good sign of what we expect,” said Jeff Kivet, the district’s director of Operations, Engineering and Construction, who said some rain could help drought conditions in Miami-Dade County and parts of Broward, where canals are already low.

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