Tropical Storm Erika moves through eastern Caribbean, could head to Florida

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Tropical Storm Erika started moving over islands in eastern Caribbean Sea Thursday morning Aug. 27, 2015

Tropical Storm Erika started moving over islands in eastern Caribbean Sea Thursday morning Aug. 27, 2015

MIAMI — After spinning west across the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Erika is finally ready to pay a visit to the islands.

Erika started moving over the edge of the eastern Caribbean Sea on Thursday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center.

In its 11 a.m. advisory, the forecasting center said the storm was centered 127 miles west of Guadeloupe and moving west at 16 mph.

The hurricane center said the storm was expected to turn toward the west-northwest later on Thursday and continue on that track for the next 48 hours.

It said the center of Erika would move near the Virgin Islands later on Thursday and pass north of the Dominican Republic on Friday.

Erika’s maximum sustained winds were near 50 mph, with higher gusts, the forecasting center said. Tropical storm force winds extended outward up to 105 miles from the center, it said.

Erika was expected to produce rainfall of 4 to 8 inches — with a maximum of 12 inches possible — across parts of the Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the southeast Bahamas through Saturday.

This storm’s expected track 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.

This means islanders and vacationers are likely to get soaked and then some.

Erika’s winds, light for a tropical storm, should not get much worse anytime soon.

“No significant change in strength is anticipated during the next 48 hours,” the hurricane center said.

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. Erika is expected to reach hurricane status with 75 mph sustained winds as it approaches South Florida on Monday.