Tropical Storm Erika leaves mass destruction, nears Florida

Early Saturday, Tropical Storm Erika unleashed her power on Haiti and the Dominican Republic leaving at least 20 people dead and another 31 missing.

Although Erika lost a lot of her punch, the storm still caused a wave of death and destruction, according to Caribbean authorities.

Dominica Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, said in a televised address that damage inflicted by the storm set the island back 20 years. He said the area received about 15 inches of rain on the mountainous island.

“The extent of the devastation is monumental. It is far worse than expected,” he said, adding that hundreds of homes, bridges and roads have been destroyed. “We have, in essence, to rebuild Dominica.”

According to Barbados-based Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency, there are at least 31 people unaccounted for. Several remote communities on the island remain isolated due to flooding and landslides. The island’s airport remains closed.

“This is a period of national tragedy,” Skerrit said. “Floods swamped villages, destroyed homes and wiped out roads. Some communities are no longer recognizable.”

The force of Troical Storm Erika was still strong enough to cause more than $16 million in damage and knock out power to more than 200,000 people in Puerto Rico.

The US National Hurricane Center in Miami says that mountains combined with an unfavorable environment could knock Erika back to below tropical storm force, noting there was a small chance Erika could recover as she moves along to Cuba.

While Erika’s exact path remains unknown, forecasters do know the storm will carry forward in the North Atlantic Ocean, not entering the Caribbean Sea nor affecting any parts of the Mexican Caribbean.

John Cagialosi, a hurricane specialist at Miami’s center, is warning people to brace for heavy rains saying, “This is a potentially heavy rain event for a large part of the state.” Florida state governor, Rick Scott, has declated a state of emergency and is urging residents to stock up on several day’s worth of food and water.

As of Friday evening, Erkia was located 95 miles west-southwest of Santo Dominto, Dominion Republic, moving west at 21 mph with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph. The storm is expected to land Southern Florida late Sunday.

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