Tropical Storm Erika could reach Florida by Sunday night; cone of uncertainty now extends to Alabama _lowres

Tropical Storm Erika could reach the southern tip of Florida by Sunday night, and its cone of uncertainty now extends to the western border of Alabama. (Photo from National Hurricane Center)

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Tropical Storm Erika could reach south Florida by Sunday night, and its cone of uncertainty now extends to the western border of Alabama.

The storm, which is currently centered about 145 miles southeast of Cuba, is moving west-northwest at 20 miles per hour. A decrease in forward speed is expected within the next 48 hours.

As of 10 p.m. Friday, maximum sustained winds were near 45 mph. Weakening is expected, and Erika could become a tropical depression on Saturday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The greatest short-term threat posed by Erika is heavy rainfall over portions of Hispaniola and eastern Cuba. These rains could produce flash floods and mudslides.

The NHC will wait to see if Erika survives after it passes Hispaniola to issue a tropical storm watch for portions of southern Florida. There is a chance that no watches or warnings will be required, the NHC said.

Right now, Erika is not expected to reach Florida as a hurricane.

A tropical storm warning continues for the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the Southeast and Central Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands. A tropical storm watch continues for the Northwestern Bahamas and for the Cuban Provinces of Ciego de Avila, Camaguey, Las Tunas, Holguin and Guantanamo.