Erika is no longer a tropical storm, but could still bring heavy rains and spark flooding as it heads to Florida from the Caribbean, the National Hurricane Center said Saturday.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott urged residents to remain vigilant even though Erika has weakened. “That is encouraging news, but (it) doesn’t mean we stop watching this weather system,” said Scott after receiving an update on the remnants of Erika from the National Hurricane Center Saturday.
“We will keep watching this weather system as it enters the Gulf of Mexico,” Scott said. ” We know that when any weather system enters the Gulf it can bring a lot of rain to Florida.”
Saturday afternoon, the remnants of Erika were between central Cuba and the Bahamas, moving west-northwestward at 20 to 25 miles per hour. The system was expected to drop 3 to 6 inches of rain on the island and up to 10 inches in some areas.
The National Hurricane Center said: “This system is producing disorganized thunderstorm activity, and recent satellite wind data indicate it is producing winds to tropical storm force.”
The center did not expect Erika to redevelop into a tropical cyclone. “However, conditions may become more conducive Sunday or Monday while it moves northwestward to northward over the eastern Gulf of Mexico.” Heavy rains are expected in portions of the Bahamas, Cuba and southern and central Florida.
Florida flooding worries
Sunday will be critical for Florida. That’s when rainfall of up to 3 to 5 inches is expected with locally heavier amounts, possible across southern and central Florida.
“These rains could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides,” the hurricane center warned.
As Erika approaches South Florida, it is expected to weaken to a depression then possibly pick back up to tropical storm strength.
The U.S. Coast Guard warned boaters and cargo ships in Key West on Friday to prepare for the possibility of sustained gale-force winds.
Even though the weather is nice today in many parts of our state, we still have to stay alert,” the governor cautioned.
“If you go to the beach, please look for warning flags and ensure waters are safe before you enter” said Scott. Forecasters say the risk of rip currents along Florida coasts will increase as Erika draws closer.
A day before a weak Tropical Storm Erica was predicted to arrive, Scott declared a state of emergency. He was worried about flooding from the storm, which has killed at least 20 people.
The deaths happened on the Caribbean island of Dominica as torrential rains burst the banks of rivers and streams with turbulent force. Erika swept away even more people, who are still missing, authorities there said.
Parts of the Caribbean could see flooding
Forecasters are advising residents of the Bahamas, eastern and central Cuba and southern Florida to continue monitoring the progress of what remains of Erika over the next 24 hours. Gusty winds and 3 to 6 inches of rain could fall across those areas with up to 10 inches possible across some portions of the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba through Sunday.
The Florida National Guard’s 8,000 members are on standby and ready to respond to locations that may require help, according to a statement released by the governor’s office Saturday.
Grief among ruins
Despite the sagging winds, the torrents that pelted Dominica, located just north of Martinique, are an unforgiving reminder that flooding is the No. 1 killer in storms.
Dominica was deluged by 12 inches of rain in fewer than 10 hours, CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said. The waters also pushed walls of mud down hills, destroying homes and livelihoods.
They have cut off the village of Petite Savanne, where rescuers are searching for mudslide victims, with other countries in the region providing helicopters and other assistance.
Images of loss — swamped villages and washed-out roads and buildings — flooded social media. People in Dominica are bereft, the nation’s Prime Minister said Friday night.
“Rest assured, my brothers and sisters, you are not alone in your period of mourning in your period of pain, in your period of suffering and anxiety,” Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit told the nation.
Worst damage seen
Repairing infrastructure will cost tens of millions; the damage will set the island back for two decades, he said.
The Prime Minister, who was in Saint Lucia when the storm first hit, deflected criticism that the government didn’t issue proper warnings to its 70,000 citizens.
“There is no need to indulge in blaming others for what has happened in Dominica,” he told the nation. He said forecasters had been focused on the larger islands in the Caribbean and Florida.
Trisha Scotland has watched many black storms rage over Dominica in her lifetime, but this is the worst damage she’s ever seen.
“I’ve experienced at least six to seven hurricanes. I’m not even counting the storms. I’m not even counting the depressions,” Scotland said.
She walked six miles from her home in Jimmit to the capital, Roseau, to check on her mother’s business, photographing the devastation along the way.
Hawaii in the path of Hurricane Ignacio
Residents of Hawaii are being warned to keep a close watch on the progress of Hurricane Ignacio.
The National Hurricane Center issued a tropical storm watch for the Big Island and for Maui County windward waters, Alenuihaha channel, Big Island windward waters and Big Island southeast waters.
Ignacio is expected to strengthen over the next day and then slowly begin weakening beginning Sunday say forecasters. Ignacio is packing a punch with sustained winds near 90 mph and stronger gusts.
Large swells generated by Ignacio will begin arriving, “along east and southeast facing shores of the main Hawaiian islands over the next several days.” according to the National Hurricane Center. As a result, “Surf will be large and potentially life-threatening, especially on the Big Island late this weekend and early next week,” the hurricane center said.
“We understand the public is fatigued from experiencing four major approaching storms so far this season, but we urge people to take the weekend to prepare their homes and families for impacts that could be felt statewide,” state Emergency Management Administrator Doug Mayne said in a press release.