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Tropical Storm Erika’s Track Remains Uncertain

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Tropical Storm Erika is continuing to move quickly westward, but as it approaches the northern Leeward Islands in the next 48 hours, both the storm’s track and intensity remain major question marks.

Tropical Storm Watches, meaning tropical storm conditions are possible within 48 hours, are in place for the northern Leeward Islands with Erika roughly 600 miles east of the islands, including notable tourist islands Anguilla and St. Maarten. Watches are expected to be expanded further west to possibly include Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands over the next 12-24 hours.

But unlike Danny, which formed last week  in roughly the same location in the central Atlantic, Erika’s track remains highly uncertain. There are two primary scenarios being painted by forecast models, mostly depending on the storm’s speed; one, the storm stays further south, clipping the northern Leewards, Puerto Rico and the island of Hispaniola, but weakening substantially as it does so. The other and perhaps more alarming scenario for U.S. interests however, takes Erika further north through the Bahamas, putting the storm within striking distance of Florida by Sunday or Monday. Right now, the NHC’s official forecast favors the northern track, again, however, it is worth reiterating that the forecast remains highly uncertain.

The other big query is the storm’s forecast intensity. For now, the NHC’s forecast calls for gradual strengthening and making it a Category 1 hurricane by Saturday as it moves through the Bahamas. The 5pm EDT advisory put south Florida at the very end of the NHC’s forecast cone, meaning residents in south Florida should prepare for the possibility of a hurricane approaching by Sunday or Monday. Varying levels of wind shear, or changes in both wind speed and direction with altitude, may or may not allow the storm to grow, and the forecast continues to be uncertain in regards to future wind shear, complicating the overall intensity forecast.

Either way, Florida residents in particular should pay close attention to this storm as it moves through the western Atlantic.

Stay with WeatherNation for the latest on this complicated forecast.

For WeatherNation: Meteorologist Chris Bianchi

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