[Update, Thursday 12:00 p.m.]: Tropical Storm Erika has shifted east, but forecasters warn Florida could still be hit by hurricane next week.
It's time to release the hurricane tracking sharks, because we're officially in the dreaded "cone of uncertainty" with Tropical Storm Erika, which is expected to arrive in our neck of the woods by Monday morning and could potentially become a Category 1 hurricane.
As of this morning, Erika remains a tropical storm about 390 miles east of Antigua. She will approach the Leeward Islands tonight. Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Antigua, Barbuda, and Anguilla are all under a Tropical Storm Warning.
The latest advisory has Erika with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph and tropical storm force winds extending 105 miles out from the center. According to numerous weather forecasts, the storm could develop into a hurricane by the time she reaches our area. Her "cone of uncertainty" — covering all the possible areas she might go next — covers all of South Florida.
While we know her general direction, some of the forecasted tracks say Erika will head north while others predict she will head south as a weaker storm. Yet others say Erika could weaken significantly much like Hurricane Danny did last week when it was clobbered by El Niño.
The National Hurricane Center says Erika will move onto the Virgin Islands by Thursday morning before she starts to move in our direction, and that's when we really need to start monitoring her trajectory.
Forecasters are saying Erika will slow down a bit as she moves towards the Bahamas. Once past those islands, she could turn into a Category 1 hurricane and head on over to Florida. However, the Hurricane Center says, once she hits the Bahamas, the islands might be able to force the storm track to go east or west, which would throw the storm off course and make it miss Florida altogether.
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A tropical storm becomes a Category 1 hurricane once its winds at or near the center of the storm hit 74 mph. Category 1 hurricanes are usually associated with the kind of wind that damages trees and shrubbery, but is relatively harmless towards buildings and most homes. Power outages become an issue as well.
So, you might want t to stock up on the tuna and water just in case, and expect Monday to be really windy.