The NHC began issuing advisories on TS Erika late last night. At first, it looked as though the 5th named storm of the season would not intensify to hurricane strength – that changed over night.
Warm sea surface temps, higher upper ocean heat content and a fairly favorable environment are now part of the new forecast which calls for the storm to reach category one strength by day four. It is worth noting that the NHC mentions having “lower confidence than usual” in the four and five day forecast for both intensity and track. This is due to quite a spread in the models. Some are showing a strong hurricane, others nothing at all really, just an open wave of low pressure. I tend to think that once clear of the deep tropics and the shear zone that destroyed Danny, that Erika will have a clear shot at becoming a hurricane near the Bahamas.
The track forecast is fairly straight forward for the time being. A strong ridge of high pressure to the north of the storm will continue to force it on a fast-paced westerly to west-northwesterly course. This could place the northeast Caribbean at risk for some impacts as Erika moves closer. As such, tropical storms watches are up for a portion of the region. Perhaps we can at least get some rain from the outer bands and still have Erika pass comfortably north of the islands. We shall see, they certainly need the rain down that way.
A lot will be made in the coming days of the track aiming at the Southeast United States and Florida in particular. It has been a long time since Florida had a hurricane threat of any kind, much less a landfall. Remember that five day track forecast errors can be large, sometimes hundreds of miles. There will be plenty of time to monitor the progress of Erika and rest assured, NOAA and other government agencies will be conducting a plethora of field recon in and around the storm over the next several days to provide state-of-the-art intel on what’s going on with the storm. This data will help to initialize the computer models each day, providing even better guidance. Just don’t let the cone of uncertainty become the cone of unnecessary anxiety.
I will have a full in-depth video blog posted by later this afternoon once the morning model runs are complete. I’ll post it here as well as on our social media feeds and in our app, Hurricane Impact. I think you’ll find the discussion to be very helpful as I break down the major factors that are likely to be in play as we track Erika over the next several days.
I’ll also have a separate blog post later today or this evening as I look back 10 years in to the past and our hurricane Katrina story, part of my “Seven days in August” blog series.
M. Sudduth 8:30 AM ET August 25