Tropical Storm Erika is not Danny. It has a better chance to survive and could be a threat to Florida as early as Monday. The season’s fifth tropical storm is forecast to near The Bahamas as a hurricane this weekend, but confidence is low on what path it may take thereafter. Forecast data suggests potential outcomes could range from a formidable hurricane nearing Florida’s east coast to a weak tropical storm sliding to the south and into the Gulf of Mexico. How strong Erika becomes will play a key role in determining what wind pattern steers the cyclone.
National Hurricane Center’s Senior Specialist Stacy Stewart says while it may be too early to react, it’s not too early to start planning for the potential of a storm,
“Now is the time to start looking ahead. Don't wait until the forecast says you might be affected in two days, and then you have to fight the rush to the hardware stores and grocery stores to get things you need."
Hurricane Hunters were investigating the storm Tuesday afternoon and found that not much had changed to its overall structure or strength. It was temporarily encountering some dry air that was delaying development, but this was not expected to continue. As Erika continues moving to the west-northwest, it will follow a similar path that Hurricane Danny took toward the Leeward Islands. The difference with Erika is that it may not hit the same roadblock that stopped Hurricane Danny in its tracks near the Caribbean. That hurdle Stacy speaks of was the high wind shear associatd with our current El Nino,
“Right now, any effects from the El Nino appear to be relatively minimal.”
Forecast data also suggests environmental conditions could become more favorable for strengthening with Erika if the storm stays north of the Greater Antilles.
“If those systems remain where they are, then Erika could pass to the north and move into more favorable conditions north of the Bahamas, and that's what we don't like to see. Rapid development of tropical cyclones close to the United States gives people less time to prepare for them."
The Florida Public Radio Emergency Network will continue tracking Erika and all Floridians are encouraged to stay informed on future developments in the tropics.