Will Tropical Storm Erika Hit Florida? Many Factors at Play

29 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Dominican Death Toll Rises as ‘Erika’ Reaches Hispaniola.

With Tropical Storm Erika forecast to wreak havoc on the Gulf Coast of Florida, Gov. MIAMI — The decision to prepare for a hurricane in this southern city usually comes down to whether the person lived through the horror of Hurricane Andrew.

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.

It was also considered possible that the storm would dissipate as it passes over the mountains of Hispaniola, the island that includes the Dominican Republic and Haiti. “It is unlikely at this point to become a hurricane,” Landsea said. “The main threat will be rainfall. It’s just another storm where everybody freaks out, another excuse to skip work or school or to party.” Despite the widespread apathy, Florida officials aren’t taking any chances. 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. “Unless something changes, we do not anticipate having to open up any shelters,” he said, but cautioned people should be prepared for a major “rain event.” Roosevelt Skerrit, the prime minister of the Caribbean island of Dominica, tweeted that 12 people were confirmed dead in heavy flooding there, “but the number may be higher.” He appealed for fresh water and supplies. Officials say residents should prepare by filling vehicles’ gas tanks, stockpiling a few days’ of food and water, and determining whether they live in an evacuation zone. Rick Scott issued a state of emergency for every county in the state Friday morning, and Miami-Dade County officials planned to contact the roughly 2,000 people on its special needs registry to see if they need assistance. The Coast Guard station in Miami is moving its larger response boats out of the storm’s path and is planning to send aircraft over the waters south of Florida to alert boaters to the oncoming threat.

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. 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.

That’s a very real threat even if the storm doesn’t come ashore.” Miami-Dade County Emergency Management Coordinator Curt Sommerhoff said even his own team suffers from a lack of hurricane experience. He estimated that half his staff was not around during the tumultuous 2004 and 2005 seasons, when Florida was hit by hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne, Dennis, Katrina and Wilma. 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. People on the island told of narrowly escaping being engulfed by water as Erika downed trees and power lines as it unleashed heavy floods that swept cars down streets and ripped scaffolding off some buildings. “I was preparing to go to work when all of a sudden I heard this loud noise and saw the place flooded with water,” said Shanie James, a 30-year-old mother who works at a bakery. “We had to run for survival.” Mudslides also destroyed dozens of homes across Dominica, including that of 46-year-old security guard Peter Julian, who had joined friends after leaving work. “When I returned, I saw that my house that I have lived in for over 20 years was gone,” he said. “I am blessed to be alive. 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. Scott made his emergency 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. His order 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. “If you need a shelter, know where your shelters are,” he said. That’s because strong winds aloft are weakening the storm — called wind shear — and that’s typical for years with an El Nino, like the current one. 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.

Meteorologists say the potential for heavy rainfall, flooding, rip currents and storm watches/warnings will emerge over the weekend as the system moves closer to the U.S. 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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