Aircraft to Investigate Tropical Storm Erika in Atlantic

  • Erika prompts tropical storm watches on Leeward Islands
  • System is currently disorganized; many unknowns in outlook

A “Hurricane Hunter” reconnaissance plane headed out Tuesday to investigate Tropical Storm Erika, a disorganized system on a path yet to be pinned down.

Erika touched off tropical storm watches on some of the Leeward Islands, which are about 730 miles (1,175 kilometers) to its west, according to a U.S. National Hurricane Center advisory at 11 a.m. New York time. The storm is a bit of mess, with the core circulation to the north of its largest thunderstorms.

“Erika is a poor excuse for a tropical storm right now,” said Dan Kottlowski, a meteorologist at AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania. “It has really lost a lot of the thunderstorms it had. The reason for this is that it is going into some drier air.”

The fifth storm of the six-month Atlantic season shouldn’t be written off yet. There is a chance that Erika could hold itself together and end up off the coast of Florida and in the Bahamas as a hurricane, the hurricane center said.

“There is a lot of uncertainty,” Kottlowski said. “What is it going to be like in 36 hours? Will it still be a discombobulated mess?”

Obstacles Ahead

There is enough dry air and wind shear in the area that Erika may be prevented from organizing. A high-pressure system is also “rocketing” Erika across the Atlantic at about 20 miles per hour, Kottlowski said. Storms often have a hard time strengthening when they are moving fast.

On the other hand, Kottlowski said, Erika is over warm water and still hasn’t run into the heavy shear that can tear a storm apart. Also, if Erika can thread its way through the islands, which can rip at its structure, and arrive in the Bahamas on Saturday or Sunday, it may reach a part of the ocean where conditions are better.

By Sunday, the current hurricane center forecast calls for Erika to have 80 mph winds.

Kottlowski said because of all the unknowns in Erika’s future, he anticipates the computer forecast models will vary widely in the next few days.

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