ERIKA BATTERS CARIBBEAN Florida, Bahamas on Alert

Posted on 08/28/2015 | About Florida State

Erika remains a tropical storm about 155 miles east-southeast of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, as of 5 a.m. EDT Friday. It is expected to bring torrential rain, flash flooding, mudslides and gusty winds to many of the northern islands of the Caribbean, before heading towards the Bahamas and Florida this weekend. On the island of Dominica eight inches of rain fell in six hours and four people are dead due to mudslides.
Today Erika will spin through the British and United States Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

A general rainfall of 2-4 inches is forecast with higher amounts locally. On Puerto Rico and the northeastern part of the Dominican Republic, rainfall of 4-8 inches is likely with greater amounts falling on the mountains.

Winds will average between 40 and 60 mph with higher gusts. Seas will be dangerous for bathers and boaters. Winds of this strength can down trees, cause sporadic power outages and damage roofs and poorly built structures.

As of late Thursday night, Governor Kenneth Mapp declared a State of Emergency, and imposed a curfew for St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands.

The curfew will remain in place until 5:00pm, today, Friday August 28th, or until it is deemed safe to lift it.

The Bahamas, Florida and the Southeastern US in general will need to monitor the track and strength of Erika into next week reported AccuWeather meteorologists.

Surf and seas will increase from southeast to northwest across the Bahamas, the north side of Cuba and the southern and eastern coast of Florida this weekend.  Onshore winds associated with Erika and tides will be significantly higher than normal.

These effects will be greatest along the Atlantic coast of Florida, including the back bays. East to northeast winds may cause some water to pile up.

Once it clears the northern islands of the Caribbean, there are various scenarios are possible.

According to AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski, "Erika will have to survive strong wind shear and the frictional effects of the mountainous islands of Puerto Rico and Hispaniola."

Shear is the rapid change in the speed and direction of the wind from the surface of the earth to the middle layers of the atmosphere.

Should Erika weaken negotiating Puerto Rico and Hispaniola, it could totally fall apart.

"Waters are warm enough and wind shear is weaker in the stretch from Florida to the Bahamas," Kottlowski said. "So, if it were to survive the gauntlet of Puerto Rico and Hispaniola, it could gather strength."

If that happens the system could curve along or east of the Atlantic coast of Florida.

How soon Erika makes more of a turn to the northwest and then to the north will determine the extent of impacts in the Bahamas and Florida. If the system survives as far north as Florida, there will be concerns farther north into the Southern states, especially in the Carolinas and perhaps as far west as Louisiana.

There is also the chance the system stalls along the Southeast US coast after negotiating Florida waters.

At this point, the amount of rain, wind and flooding from Erika in Florida and the Bahamas will depend on the exact track and strength of the system this weekend and into early next week.

Florida Governor Rick Scott held a statewide conference call with emergency officials, Florida National Guard, and local law enforcement.  Scott said 8,000 National Guard were ready to mobilize and communications had been tested in anticipation of a weekend landfall.

Coastal residents should stockpile three days' worth of food and water, know where emergency shelters are he said and urged residents to follow news reports.

“If they say you need to evacuate, you need to evacuate,” he said.

The last hurricane to hit Florida was Wilma in October 2005.

Tropical storm warnings were in effect for Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, St. Martin/St Maarten, St. Barthelemy, Montserrat, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, Anguilla, Saba and St. Eustatius.