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Could Tropical Storm Erika be a threat to mainland USA?

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Erika is making its way toward the northern Windward Islands as a tropical storm packing winds of 45 mph. Tropical Storm watches and warnings have been issued for Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Antigua among others.

The current track issued by the National Weather Service and many models shows it heading toward Florida by the end of the weekend or early next week. While that seems a big story for the Sunshine State, the big question is: Will it survive the trek?

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Erika will more or less go across the same path that Hurricane Danny went through last week. Danny strengthened to a hurricane last Thursday peaking 115 mph making it the first major category 3 of the season. As it approached the Leeward Islands, it crossed through very dry air and wind shear suffocating the storm by the time it started to impact Puerto Rico.

The fact that Erika is going through the same adverse conditions Danny went through is evident through the Hurricane Center’s forecast. The storm will struggle to strengthen as it goes through Puerto Rico and the Turk and Caicos Islands. It won’t be until the time it affects the Bahamas and the Eastern Florida coastline that the cyclone will enter a favorable environment. At that time there is a chance that it may strengthen to a minimal category 1 hurricane with winds of 75 mph.

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While the current forecast cone shows the storm shows a “bulls eye” of sorts somewhere between West Palm Beach and Cape Canaveral, it’s important to know that there is a very large uncertainty on where this storm will make landfall, if it even does. The storm at this point could totally miss Florida and head  further up the Eastern Seaboard or go out to sea. In simple terms, we’re still too far ahead to think about where the direct hit will occur.

For now the entire Florida Peninsula should be closely follow Tropical Storm Erika. Regardless of the track and whether it develops further or not, heavy rain could move into parts of the state as early as Sunday afternoon.