Tropical Storm Erika Death Toll Climbs

The death toll from Tropical Storm Erika has risen to 12.

Roosevelt Skerrit, the Prime Minister of Dominica, said on Twitter that 12 people are now confirmed dead on the tiny island nation and “the number may be higher.”

The path of the storm now has it tracking squarely over the state of Florida, although forecasters no longer believe the storm is going to reach hurricane status.  Florida officials are warning residents to prepare for the storm despite the weakened predictions.

“We’ve got concerns all across the state now because it’s going to be coming clear across the state,” Gov. Rick Scott told reporters.  He called the storm “a serious threat.”

Scott noted that it’s been years since Florida has experienced a hurricane or tropical storm of any significance in his call for people to prepare.

“Think of how many people have moved to our state and never even experienced a hurricane,” Scott told reporters.

The U.S. Coast Guard sent a warning to ports along South Florida to prepare.

“Mariners are reminded that there are no safe havens in these facilities and that ports are safest when the inventory of vessels is at a minimum,” a Coast Guard statement said. “All oceangoing commercial vessels and oceangoing barges greater than 500 gross tons should make plans for departing the port.”

Six Missing in Mudslides Created by Tropical Storm Erika

Tropical Storm Erika has devastated the tiny island of Dominica, triggering landslides that have left at least six people missing and hundreds of people without homes.

The Antiqua Weather Service says the storm dumped 9 inches of rain onto the mountainous island late Wednesday and then 6 more inches on Thursday.

About 80 percent of the island is without electricity.  The country’s airport has been closed after flood waters covered cars and at least one small airplane.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) says that the storm is moving west with sustained winds of 50 m.p.h. and is expected to cover Puerto Rico Thursday.  The storm continues to be what forecasters call “poorly organized” and is not expected to strengthen over the next two days.

Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla said that while the storm could cut off power and water service, the storm would also bring much needed rain to the parched nation.

“We’re happy given the dry conditions, but it does highlight the need to be on alert,” he told CBS.

Forecasters say it is still too early to know whether or not the storm will reach Florida with any kind of tropical storm or hurricane strength.

Meanwhile in the Pacific, Tropical Storm Ignacio strengthened into a hurricane.  The storm is moving slowly westward, about 1,100 miles east-southeast of Hilo, Hawaii.

Tropical Storm Erika Forms in Atlantic

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) has confirmed the presence of a new named storm in the Atlantic Ocean.

Tropical Storm Erika has sustained winds of 45 m.p.h. and as of noon eastern time was about 700 miles east of the Leeward Islands with a westward path at 20 m.p.h.

A tropical storm watch has been posted throughout the region for islands that are in desperate need of rain because of a sustained drought.  However, the storm is expected to continue to gain strength and reach hurricane status.

Forecast models are showing extremely different paths for the storm, from dissipating before making significant landfall to becoming a huge Category 4 storm that would strike South Carolina.

Erika is the fifth named storm in the Atlantic during the 2015 storm season.  Danny was the only storm to reach hurricane status, peaking as a Category 3 storm.  Danny dissipated on Monday because of a dry air mass moving across the region.

The NHC said the Air Force’s Hurricane Hunters are going to make a mass through the storm and provide feedback on the storm’s intensity.