Tropical Storm Erika rolls through eastern Caribbean

After spinning west across the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Erika finally has land in its sights.

Specifically, Erika start moving over islands in eastern Caribbean Sea on Wednesday night, according to the National Hurricane Center’s 5 p.m. advisory. Its next stop after that, on Thursday, will be in and around the Virgin Islands, before heading near the northern coast of the Dominican Republic on Friday.

This progression has led forecasters to issue tropical storm warnings — meaning sustained winds of 39 mph or more are expected in the next 36 hours — for numerous island locales including Anguilla, St. Maarten, St. Barthelemy, Montserrat, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, Puerto Rico and both the U.S. and British Virgin Islands.

The bad news is that this means islanders and vacationers will get soaked and then some. The hurricane center predicts 3 to 5 inches of rainfall, with as many as 8 inches in some locales.

The good news is that while Erika’s winds will be strong, they’ll be far short of historic. As of early Wednesday evening, the storm sported sustained winds of 45 mph gusts. And it shouldn’t get much worse anytime soon, with the forecast calling for “little change in strength … during the next 48 hours.”

Still, that doesn’t mean Erika — the fifth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season — will sputter out.

By the end of the week, forecast models predict that the storm will intensify. In fact, by this weekend, Erika is expected to reach hurricane status with 75 mph sustained winds as it approaches South Florida.

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