LUMBERTON — Tropical Storm Erika could bring rain and wind to the Carolinas in the middle of next week, but the power with which it might hit is uncertain as is its path.
The National Weather Service in Wilmington says the long-term forecast for the area “totally depends” on whether Erika strengthens while passing the Caribbean this weekend.
The storm’s evolution “at this point is very uncertain,” an area forecast issued at 6:45 this morning said.
On its current trajectory, Erika is expected to reach the Florida coast Monday evening.
Forecasts predict the storm may bring an “extreme rush of moisture into the Carolinas with gusty winds and swells and strong on shore push affecting the coastal waters.” The highest chance of precipitation will come on Tuesday and into Wednesday, the forecast says.
In the meantime, Robeson County residents can expect some showers throughout the weekend and into next week.
Friday is expected to be partly sunny with a high of 87 degrees. On Saturday, there is a there is a 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Forecasts for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday are calling for a 30 to 40 percent chance of rain with temperatures topping out in the high-80s.
According to The Associated Press, Erika neared Antigua and Barbuda early today, dumping rain on the eastern Caribbean on a path expected to take it by Puerto Rico later in the day.
Across the region, officials ordered schools, airports and casinos to close and they prepared shelters ahead of the storm, which was not expected to strengthen over the next two days.
Early this morning, Erika was moving west at 16 mph with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.
The hurricane center said Erika would move near Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands today and be near or just north of the Dominican Republic on Friday. It’s unclear how strong it will be after that.
“We don’t know how much of the storm will be left,” James Franklin, chief hurricane forecaster at the Miami-based center. told The Associated Press.
Erika is the fifth tropical storm of the season. Danny, which was a hurricane briefly, has dissipated.
Staff writer Sarah Willets and Associated Press writers Danica Coto and Judy Fitzpatrick contributed to this report.