If it keeps itself together, Tropical Storm Erika could be off South Florida as a Category 1 hurricane late Sunday.
South Florida, home to millions of people, is now in the so-called “cone of uncertainty” at the end of the current 5-day forecast. Erika could be positioned anywhere inside that cone, based on information currently available.
Of course, hurricanes are notoriously difficult to predict in strength and position beyond three days. Some models have had Erika dissipating over Hispaniola far to the east-southeast of Florida. Other models have shown the storm becoming even more powerful, nearing Category 2 strength. Some models have the storm curving out into the Atlantic, avoiding the Florida peninsula. National Hurricane Center forecasts typically follow a consensus of the models.
Erika formed in the Atlantic Monday night and has been following a track similar to Hurricane Danny, which has now dissipated into a remnant low pressure system after bringing rains to the Lesser Antilles and Puerto Rico.
After showing some disorganization earlier in the day, NHC forecasters say Erika has regained some composure and is beginning to look more impressive. Erika’s winds are estimated at 40 mph and the storm is expected to strengthen as it moves over warmer waters and faces moderate wind shear, which can tear tropical storms apart, for the next two days.
Hurricane Hunter aircraft inspected Erika Tuesday afternoon, gathering direct data that confirmed earlier estimates of the storm’s strength.
Computer models have been mixed on Erika’s future, and the NHC issued its 5 p.m. Eastern forecast update with a caveat that the storm’s future is uncertain. Erika is expected to reach hurricane strength Sunday about 100 miles east-southeast of Miami. But because of the models’ divergence, that prediction has a low confidence.
The models also show a range of tracks for Erika, with the NHC giving the fast-moving storm a track over the Lesser Antilles on Thursday morning, then north of Hispaniola on Friday and north of Cuba on Saturday. A tropical storm watch is already in effect in the northern Lesser Antilles.
Intensity models updated at 8 a.m. on Weather Underground show Erika growing much stronger, approaching 100 mph winds by Monday.
Although hurricane forecasting has advanced in recent years, particularly what paths storms take, reliable forecasts beyond three days remain elusive.
The remnants of Danny haven’t just faded away. They’ve drifted into the Caribbean, where they remain under watch by NHC forecasters, though the collection of thunderstorms isn’t given much chance of reforming into a cyclone.
Courtesy of upi.com