Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Weaker Erika tough to track

A weaker Tropical Storm Erika wobbled on an uncertain path Wednesday that hiked the risk of a hit to Puerto Rico, Haiti and possibly by next week Florida.

Because the storm was so disorganized, the National Hurricane Center was struggling to both locate its center and predict its track.

Erika, expected to crawl northwest overnight, jogged southwest possibly the result of its center reforming with a resulting shift south of its future track.

At 11 a.m., Erika was moving west-northwest at 10 mph with its maximum winds down to 40 mph, the minimum for a tropical storm. It was about 100 miles east-southeast of the northern Leeward Islands and expected to cross them during the night and early Thursday morning.

A tropical storm watch was likely to be posted for Puerto Rico and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands later Thursday, which forecasters said could see up to eight inches of rain as the storm passes Friday.

The window after that is wide and the center stressed it had "low confidence" in its forecast. But if Erika holds to course, the Dominican Republic and Haiti could face similar conditions by Saturday, followed by the Turks and Caicos Islands a day later.

By Monday, Erika or perhaps its remnants could be anywhere from eastern Cuba to northeast of the Bahamas.

Wind shear was chewing at the storm and though some computer models predicted it would reach hurricane strength, the center expected it to weaken over the next few days into a depression and possibly dissolve back into a wet but not so wild wave.

A Hurricane Hunter plane sent into the storm early Wednesday detected multiple circulations and the loosely defined center may have reformed to the southwest, which further complicated the forecast.

-- McClatchy Newspapers

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