WED 8/26/15 - TS Erika May Become A Hurricane & Threaten The US

Note: This section is updated every afternoon with our analysis. Next post by 5PM EDT today. For real time info, visit Erika's page under "Current Storms" for all the latest maps, models & advisories. Thanks.

Tropical Storm Erika is quite disorganized this afternoon as it's battling some northwesterly wind shear. In fact, the low level circulation has become exposed and the heavy thunderstorms have been displaced to the south and east of the center (see image below). Since yesterday, Erika has slowed down, but is now facing windshear running in the 15 to 20 knot range. We do not expect Erika to strengthen much during the next 24 to 36 hours, as the environment around the islands is not favorable. Erika will be moving through the northern portions of the Lesser Antilles, Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico through tomorrow. Tropical storm warnings have been issued for these areas. Receive our detailed discussions via email as soon as they are published, please tap here

TRACK: Erika has been primarily moving towards the west, but a slight turn towards the wnw should happen very soon and satellite imagery confirms this may already be occurring. A track towards the wnw is critical for this storm because if it moves more west, there's a higher chance it could interact with the islands and especially with the mountains of Hispaniola. There is still a low chance Erika could dissipate somewhere near Puerto Rico much like Danny did. The official forecast from the National Hurricane Center calls for Erika to skirt just north of Hispaniola. Most of the computer models have been consistent with a track through the Bahamas and very near southern Florida by late on Sunday. In fact, the NHC has Erika making landfall early Monday morning in SE. At this juncture, it's best to focus on the cone and not the actual track. Beyond Monday, there are some indications that Erika could actually slow to a crawl and not move very far for a few days. This is going to be a tricky forecast track. Keep in mind, we are still 4-5 days away from potential impacts, this forecast will no doubt be modified a few times.

INTENSITY: Erika will be in an area not conducive for strengthening during the next 24 to 36 hours. Once Erika starts moving past Puerto Rico, it will be entering a much more favorable environment that is conducive to strengthening. A good chunk of the computer model guidance takes Erika to a category 1 hurricane as it moves wnw through the Bahamas Friday and Saturday (see below). The two factors that may allow Erika to intensity in the Bahamas will be very warm ocean temperatures and a favorable upper-level environment with little to no wind shear. The water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico and near the Bahamas are some of the warmest on the planet (see below). Some parts are running near 90F! Needless to say, if Erika survives the next 24 hours, she will have an opportunity to strengthen into a strong hurricane. We will be watching the intensity forecast very closely over the coming days.

Possible US Threat? Overnight and this morning, computer models have been trending towards potential US impacts anywhere from FL to the Carolinas. Many times, tropical storms and hurricanes curve away from the United States and safely out to sea. Usually, there's an incoming cold front or an upper level trough of low pressure to help "steer" these storms away from the United States. The steering pattern for late this week and into the weekend is showing something very different. All models agree on a strong ridge of high pressure to the north of Erika, preventing little to no northerly or easterly movement. The chance of Erika escaping away from United States is low. If Erika is somehow able to strengthen into a really strong hurricane, it may be able to turn more towards the north and skirt FL just to the east. The stronger a storm is, the more poleward (N) it's likely to go. If this scenario played out, then we could see possible effects to portions of SC/NC. Yes, there is the potential of a landfalling hurricane (could even be a strong one) in the United States, but it's not set in stone. Please continue to follow future forecasts from the NHC closely. As of this post, we are giving a 3/10 chance that Erika will impact the United States. These chances will likely rise further if Erika holds together over the next 24 hours. Please see our latest Long Range Impact Chances Map below to see what the % chance is of Erika affecting any one given area.

Alert Levels: We have issued Alert Levels for portions of the region in anticipation of possible effects from Erika this week. Please review the image below to see what your alert level should be at this time.

Please stay tuned here at the Hurricane Tracker App for frequent updates on TS Erika this week.

We highly recommend following our Twitter (hurrtrackerapp) for real time coverage as the systems track westward.

A new post will be issue sometime on Thursday afternoon. Please check the Real Time Feed for Erika on the storm page for frequent posts from us as the data changes.

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