Severe Weather

Tropical Storm Erika Could Become Hurricane, Is Headed in Our General Direction

UPDATE [Wednesday, 8:00 a.m.]: Tropical Storm Erika could become a hurricane as it approaches Florida on Monday

So, Hurricane Danny was a thing last week that ended up being nothing (for us in South Florida, anyway). But another disturbance has emerged right behind Danny that is projected to get at least 200 miles from of our neck of the woods by the weekend and into next week.

That doesn't mean we're getting hit by a hurricane. But it might. But probably not. Nobody knows right now.

Let's get to what we do know.

On Monday night, Tropical Storm Erika formed in the central part of the Atlantic and has been moving at a healthy 20 mph clip as of the latest 11 a.m. Tuesday advisory.

At the moment, Erika is moving over some warm waters and low wind shear, which means she's gaining strength. So much so that forecasters believe Erika will become at least a category 1 hurricane over the weekend, with sustained winds of 80 mph.

The National Hurricane Center says it expects Erika to run into some wind shear and possibly the mountains of Hispaniola in the coming days, which would weaken the storm — though it's expected to dump a lot of rain on Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. 

The important thing for us to keep an eye on are those models, which right now are hinting that Erika could trek east of Florida by Sunday or Monday as a category 1 hurricane.

Forecasters say they'll have a better idea on what Erika will do by Sunday morning. 

So what does that mean for us? It means it's too early to tell if South Florida will be impacted by Erika. But we do know that, at the very least, she'll be near us by the weekend, and that could mean a great many things. It can mean we're getting hit by a cat. 1 hurricane. It could mean we're getting hit by a tropical storm. It could mean we're going to get a lot of rain dumped on us. Or it can mean nothing at all.

At the beginning of the season, forecasters said the odds of Florida getting hit by a hurricane this season were lower than usual.
At the beginning of hurricane season, forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said they expected 2015 to be another slow season thanks in large part to storm-killing El Nino, which wreaks havoc on wind and pressure patterns that ultimately fuel storm formations. El Nino is expected to be even bigger this season, NOAA says, which means slower-than-normal Atlantic waters.

Last season, forecasters predicted nine named storms and three hurricanes. When the 2014 season ended, we had seen only eight named storms form, well below the average of 12 per season. Florida was spared from being hit for the ninth straight season; Wilma was the last hurricane to make landfall in the Sunshine State, back in 2005.

Erika has become the fifth named storm of the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season.
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Chris Joseph
Contact: Chris Joseph