Tropical Storm Emily's projected path has been shifted farther to the east of Florida, reducing but far from eliminating the state's risk.
Meanwhile, the system also is forecast to be a relatively mediocre tropical storm with sustained winds of 45 mph as it approaches Florida on Saturday morning. Initially, forecasters predicted the system might be a hurricane and draw close to the Miami shoreline.
At 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Emily was about 185 miles southeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico, moving northwest at 14 mph with sustained winds of 50 mph, up from 40 mph earlier in the day. It was about 1,100 miles southeast of Miami.
Because the of the track shift, only the eastern half of the state is now in the cone of error - rather than most of it, as was the case earlier on Tuesday.
Although Emily is expected to continue strengthening over the next day, a key question is whether it will be weakened or even shredded apart if its core passes over the mountainous terrain of Hispaniola.
Under the latest forecast, the storm would angle over the Dominican Republic and Haiti on Thursday and emerge over the Atlantic as a downgraded tropical depression.
If it survives that crossing, environmental conditions are favorable for it to start strengthening again, said senior hurricane specialist Lixion Avila of the National Hurricane Center.
The system is projected to be in the central Bahamas on Friday, back at tropical storm strength, and then parallel the east coast of Florida on Saturday.
If the current forecast holds, it would remain about 200 miles off the coast of Fort Lauderdale and about 250 miles off the coast of Daytona Beach.
However, because Emily remains rather disorganized, the forecast track and intensity remain uncertain, Avila said.
For now, the National Weather Service says tropical storm conditions are possible along Florida's eastern seaboard on Saturday but not likely.
Under the current forecast, the Central Florida coastline might see some stormy weather, while Orlando would see a hot relatively dry day on Saturday. South Florida might see showers and strong breezes move in on Friday night and continue into Saturday.
“If we’re looking at a stronger storm, the effects will be magnified,” meteorologist Robert Molleda said, adding that if Emily approaches close enough, South Florida could see squally weather on Saturday.
Molleda said the forecast could easily change and urged residents to keep an eye on the storm.
“It’s hurricane season in a hurricane zone,” he said. “This is the game we play every year.”Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun