Tropical Storm Erika wreaked havoc on Puerto Rico on Friday after leaving the Caribbean island of Dominica in shambles. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has deployed assistance teams to Puerto Rico, St. Croix and St. Thomas, USA Today reported, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state emergency as the storm heads toward the state.
Erika has killed at least 25 people in Dominica since it hit the Caribbean island Wednesday, a government official told a TV news station in Trinidad and Tobago Friday. Erika brought heavy rains and winds to the island, causing severe flooding and mudslides. The storm hit Puerto Rico Friday, and a tropical storm warning currently in place includes islands from Puerto Rico to the Bahamas. Cuba’s government center issued a tropical storm watch Friday morning.
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The storm is very disorganized and hard to track, according to CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray. It is expected to remain at tropical storm strength as it moves toward Florida, but could weaken or even dissipate in the next 12 to 24 hours. Still, Florida is preparing for the worst; President Barack Obama was briefed on disaster preparations, the White House said.
"If the center of Erika survives the mountainous terrain of Hispaniola (the island that is home to the Dominican Republic and Haiti) it should slowly reorganize back into a tropical storm this weekend, just northeast of Cuba," said AccuWeather hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski, USA Today reported. "If Erica does not survive the interaction with Hispaniola, it may never reorganize into a coherent tropical storm again and impact on Florida would be reduced.”
Tropical Storm Erika could hit Florida by Sunday or Monday. If it does hit Florida, the state’s biggest area of concern would be flooding, especially in Tampa, Scott told CNN. Tampa had problems with flooding earlier this summer, and Erika could cause even further damage in the area.