Tropical Storm Erika, the fifth named storm of the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season, continues to quickly march westward at 20 mph, maintaining moderate tropical storm strength with the potential for intensificaiton ahead.
The National Hurricane Center predicts Erika will be a Category 1 hurricane by 2 a.m. Saturday as the storm approaches the Bahamas.
The current five-day forecast predicts Erika could be anywhere from Cuba to east of the Bahamas.
Erika emerged as Tropical Depression Danny fizzled Monday. As of 10 p.m. Monday, the National Hurricane Center had stopped issuing advisories on Danny and focused its attention to the new storm.
Erika was about 1,000 miles away from the Leeward Islands as it moved west at 20 miles per hour. "A westward to west-northwestward motion with some decrease in forward speed is expected during the next couple of days," the NHC said.
Maximum sustained winds are about 40 mph. Some strengthening is forecast in the coming days.
Two key questions remain...how strong will Erika get and where is it headed?
"During the next couple of days, Erika will be moving through an environment characterized by warm water, a moist air mass, and generally low vertical wind shear. These factors should allow strengthening," the NHC said. "After 48 hours, Erika will be approaching an upper-level low/trough that is forecast to be near Hispaniola, which is expected to cause an increase in westerly wind shear."
The NHC noted that it doesn't feel particularly confident in its 3-plus-day forecast because of many variables that could affect the storm's strength.
By Saturday night, the NHC predicts Erika will be a tropical storm near the Bahamas.