According to forecasters with the National Hurricane Center, Tropical Storm Erika should hit the southeast region of Florida by early next week. However, experts also advise that the “region of uncertainty” includes the Tampa Bay area.
An already powerful storm has gained strength as it dumps massive amounts of rain in the eastern part of the Caribbean. On the small island of Dominica alone, at least 15 inches of rain have already fallen. Along with severe landslides and flooding, five people from that island are reported to be missing.
As Erika gets closer to Florida, it is predicted to strengthen to a Category 1 hurricane. Forecasters warn the public not to focus only on the cone’s center since this is simply a tool used by professionals whereby computer models help predict that path of the storm five days out. Included in this prediction are several hundreds of miles that make up the error margin.
If Erika does make its way to Florida, most of the effects would be across the Bay area. With this, people would see a significant increase in thunderstorms and showers. As stated by Paul R. Close, Ruskin-based meteorologist, the only thing people in Tampa Bay and other areas of Florida that could be impacted by Erika can do is be prepared and wait.
Advice was also offered by Governor Rick Scott who told residents to get ready but also pay close attention to what news reports suggest. If necessary, some residents would be evacuated. However, as Scott explained, even if Erika does not make a direct hit on Florida, current flooding concerns would likely worsen due to an increase in rainfall so people could still be at risk.
In anticipation off possible effects of Erika, Tallahassee’s state Emergency Response Team has already activated to Level 2. As of mid-morning, the massive storm is only 125 miles to the west of Guadeloupe, moving about 16 miles per hour to the west while sustaining maximum wind speeds of 50 miles per hour.
In addition to risk for the people of Tampa Bay and other parts of Florida, warnings for Erika were issued for other US states, the British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Leeward Islands. A tropical storm watch was also issued for the Turks & Caicos Islands, Dominican Republic, and the southeast region of the Bahamas.
Erika has wreaked havoc in its path, causing severe flooding and power outages, destroying a minimum of 20 homes, and leaving several individuals missing. Without question, this situation is very dangerous and grim so people need to take emergency communications seriously.