Tropical Storm Erika: U.S. Impact Or Out To Sea?

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. 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. The storm was located about 155 miles (250 kilometers) east of Antigua and was moving west at 17 mph (28 kph) with maximum sustained of 45 mph (75 kph). On the forecast track, the center of Erika will move near or over portions of the Leeward Islands Wednesday night, move near the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Thursday, and be near or just north of the north coast of the Dominican Republic on Friday.

If Erika makes it past the eastern edge of the Greater Antilles, forecasters say the storm could reorganize in more hurricane-friendly territory near the Bahamas. Erika was forecast to pass near Antigua and Barbuda overnight, with authorities in the twin-island nation warning of flash floods given the extremely dry conditions caused by the worst drought to hit the Caribbean in recent years. Boats at Shell Beach Marina on Antigua’s north coast have been out of the water since Saturday, with people not taking chances as Erika approaches, said Caroline Davy, a marina employee. 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. 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.

But Feltgen said forecast error — the margin of how far off the prediction could be — is 240 miles five days in advance and 180 miles four days out. Wind shear over the Atlantic was knocking down the storm Wednesday, Feltgen said, but forecasters predicted Erika would remain a cyclone until it reached the southeastern Bahamas later this week, at which point it could pick up in intensity. If Erika does strengthen, he said, it is more likely to move to the north and east, affecting the state’s Atlantic coast while potentially sparing Tampa Bay.

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 National Hurricane Center shows Erika reaching Category 1 hurricane status on Monday morning with a forecast track that could make it the first hurricane to hit Florida’s shores since Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

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.

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