Since Tropical Storm Erika caused the first of its major damages and killed four people in Dominica on Thursday, its death count has increased, and it has escalated significantly.
“Erika has really, really visited us with a vengeance,” said Dominica Assistance Police Superintendent Claude Weekes during a phone interview with the Associated Press. “There are many fallen rocks and trees, and water. It’s really chaotic.
As of 5 a.m., the storm’s gusts had strengthened even further, reaching 60 mph as opposed to the 45-50 mph winds forecasters had seen from the storm 24 hours earlier.
Erika is now mere hours away from hitting Puerto Rico, where its negative effects are expected to be more severe. Puerto Rican officials note that the storm’s outer bands have already knocked down some power lines and caused a few landslides on the heavily populated island, but the damage is minimal compared to what is forecast when the actual storm hits. Puerto Rican roads have been closed, a storm warning has been issued, and the National Guard has been activated by the country’s governor, Alejandro Garcia Padilla.
“We don’t want to see any deaths. Use utmost precaution,” he warned citizens.
The effect the storm will have on the continental United States is still uncertain. However, the Weather Channel reports how large the storm (or, potentially, hurricane) the U.S. will have to deal with is largely dependent on what happens when Erika hits the Dominican Republic, its next destination after Puerto Rico. If the storm hits the island head-on, they say, there is a strong potential for it to dissipate as a tropical cyclone over its central mountains. In the more likely scenario of the storm skirting the eastern coast of the Dominican Republic, it will only gain in ferocity.
Regardless of what happens to the storm in the Dominican Republic, the National Hurricane Center says it seems highly likely that it will hit either southern or eastern Florida. Jeff Kivett, an employee of the South Florida Water Management District, talked about how Floridians are bracing themselves in an interview with WSVN.
“We can’t wait until we see where it’s actually going to hit, so we started our preparations.”
The government has gotten involved by strongly urging citizens to prepare for the worst from Erika, and citizens all over the state’s coast are listening.
“Well, just got the last couple of cases of water,” another Floridian told WSVN. “Got plenty of food, a freezer full of food, two generators, hurricane impact windows. We even got a propane stove.”
But in the worst-case scenario, according to the Weather Channel, the tropical storm (which, by the time it hits the U.S., will be a hurricane) may miss Florida completely and hit the largely unprepared states of North and South Carolina.
[Image via James Nielsen/Getty Images]