Tropical Storm Erika closing in on southeastern portion of US

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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 Thursday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center.

In its 5 a.m. advisory, the storm was centered about 30 miles southeast of Antigua.

Its next stop will be in and around the Virgin Islands, before brushing 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.

Early Thursday, the storm packed maximum sustained winds of 50 mph gusts. And it shouldn’t 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.

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