Forecasters say Erika projected to hit Florida late Sunday as tropical storm, not hurricane _lowres


Forecasters said Friday that it appeared likely that Tropical Storm Erika will strike Florida late Sunday as a tropical storm and not as a hurricane.

Chris Landsea, a meteorologist with the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami, said it was still possible that the storm would dissipate as it passes over the mountains of Hispaniola, the island that includes the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Tropical Storm Erika’s projected track shifted west Friday morning to a path that would take it directly over Florida. But the storm remained fairly disorganized, the National Weather Service said.

“It is unlikely at this point to become a hurricane,” Landsea said. “The main threat will be rainfall. You’ve seen some horrific rainfall in the Caribbean with what happened in Dominica.”

As of late morning Friday, Erika was about 65 miles south-southeast of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and was moving west near 18 mph, according to the Hurricane Center. The storm’s maximum sustained winds were near 50 mph.

Authorities in the Dominican Republic began to evacuate people on Friday as Erika lashed the country with heavy rain and wind after killing at least four people and causing devastating floods and mudslides in the eastern Caribbean island of Dominica, where authorities said about 20 people were still missing.

The storm was expected to dump up to 8 inches of rain across the drought-stricken northern Caribbean as it headed toward the Bahamas and the U.S.