468px-Hurricane_Irene_Aug_24_2011_1810ZTropical Storm Erika is blamed for at least 20 deaths and dozens missing on the Caribbean island of Dominica. The storm weakened and is forecast to fall to a tropical depression Saturday. The high mountains of Hispaniola which are in storm’s path threaten its strength and a weaker Erika may reach Florida by Monday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center says. Friday morning, the governor of Florida, Rick Scott, declared a state of emergency ahead of Tropical Storm Erika and got the National Guard prepared for action.
Miami-based government forecasters have described Erika, the fifth named storm of the six-month Atlantic hurricane season, as ‘a very disorganized storm’ and unusually hard to predict due to disruption from wind patterns and interaction with land, as it crosses the mountains of Hispaniola, which will weaken the storm. Last week, Danny, the season’s first hurricane, was torn apart by winds and rapidly dissipated as the storm reached the Caribbeans.
Erika has brought flooding rains to the Caribbean. The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency reports up to 30 people are missing across Dominica.
According to the U.S. National Hurricane Center, it was expected to drop from 3 to 6 inches of rain across portions of the Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic through Friday, offering some relief from recent drought conditions. However, some areas may get up to 10 inches from Erika and this could cause “life-threatening flash floods and mudslides,” the NHC said.
The state’s Division of Emergency Management advised Florida residents and visitors to treat Erika with respect and adhere to warnings and advisories as they are issued. Scott said that families should keep an eye on local news for further instructions and be sure they have disaster supply kits fully stocked and evacuation plans in place, particularly those who have moved to Florida since the last hurricane, named Wilma, hit Florida in October 2005.

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