Thursday, August 27, 2015

Will Erika Threaten Florida? Everybodys Asking, But Nobody Knows For Sure

Satellite photo of Tropical Storm Erika over the
Lesser Antilles Thursday morning.  
Tropical Storm Erika was struggling westward through the northern Lesser Antilles in the central Atlantic Ocean early this morning, and has a lot of people asking what she's up to.

Like her smaller predecessor, Hurricane Danny, Erika is struggling with dry air and strong upper level winds that are preventing Erika from strengthening much.

Unlike Danny, Erika's larger size gives this tropical storm a shot a surviving the hostile weather conditions around it.

Erika is also a little south of where forecasters thought it might be today. If that's the case, the slightly more southward position might take the storm over the land masses of Puerto Rico and Hispaniola, instead of the current forecasts that take it just north of those islands.

If Erika goes over those land areas, it could weaken or even fall apart. Tropical systems feed off warm ocean water, but weaken and die over land.

If Erika manages to survive, it could pose a threat to Florida. If Erika gets to the Bahamas relatively intact this weekend, the tropical storm will encounter weaker upper level winds and very warm ocean waters.

Those are two ingredients that really help tropical storms grow into hurricanes. A lot of computer models do strengthen Erika into a hurricane by the time it gets to its expected position in the Bahamas this weekend.

Then what? A worst case scenario is Erika would indeed strengthen to a hurricane and hit the Florida east coast Monday or Tuesday.

Lately, a lot of models predict Erika will curve northward, just off the Florida east coast.

There's still LOTS of questions on where Erika will end up, and now strong it will be once it gets where it is going.

I'm sure officials in Florida are dusting off and booting up their emergency plans, just in case.

I also bet Lowe's and Home Depot will be SLAMMED with people the next couple of days with people buying hurricane supplies and plywood to board up windows, just in case.

Incredibly, Florida has not had a landfalling hurricane since Wilma in October, 2005, so that's a way, way unusually long time for Florida to go without a hurricane.

I'm sure there will be more surprises with Erika down the line, so don't hang your hat yet on any one forecast for the storm. If you're in Florida or the southeastern United States or planning on going there the next few days, keep yourself updated on what Erika is up to.

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