The season's fifth named storm has formed in the Atlantic Ocean, the National Hurricane Center reported Tuesday afternoon.
Tropical Storm Erika has top sustained winds of 50 mph, with slow strengthening predicted. The storm's center is 390 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands, moving toward the west northwest at 9 mph. Tropical Storm Watches have been issued for the northern Leeward Islands.
Erika seems to be following nearly the same path as Hurricanes Bill and Danny before her. Both of those storms swept north of the Bahamas and passed between the Carolina coast and Bermuda before curving north, then northeast and expiring in the North Atlantic.
Forecasters say the storm may strengthen for a time, but faces increased wind shear in a couple of days, and that's likely to weaken Erika's power. Such high-level winds are stronger in El Nino years like this one, and are forecast to limit the number and power of this year's storms.
But computer models disagree on how much shear will hobble Erika. Here's the hurricane center's thinking:
"THE NHC FORECAST
WILL SHOW SLOW INTENSIFICATION OVER THE FIRST COUPLE OF DAYS...THEN
WEAKENING THEREAFTER AS THE SHEAR TAKES OVER. THE NHC FORECAST WILL
BE CONSERVATIVE AT THIS TIME...BUT IT IS OF NOTE THAT ALMOST ALL OF
THE RELIABLE INTENSITY GUIDANCE SHOW ERIKA EVENTUALLY BECOMING A
HURRICANE...DESPITE THE SHEAR."