A direct Flagler County landfall with hurricane-force winds is unlikely at this point, but the forecast could change dramatically, officials said.
Tropical Storm Erika isn’t likely to make direct landfall in Flagler County as a hurricane, but county officials are monitoring the storm and preparing in case it does, and advising residents to do the same.
“Pick up debris around your house; pick up the loose articles,” County Emergency Management Chief Kevin Guthrie said. “We could very well lose power. … Make sure you have your water, make sure you have the ability to deal with feeding or eating on things that do not require electricity.”
As of 3 p.m. Aug. 27, Guthrie said, the county is “in a posture of monitoring the storm,” and hasn’t taken any official protective action, though county staff are checking the equipment they would use to clear debris if they need to.
The county hasn’t announced which hurricane shelters it will open yet if the storm requires it, Guthrie said, but will do that once it has more information. The actions of counties to the south will also influence Flagler’s reaction, Guthrie said.
“We have to prepare our evacuations based on what the counties south of us do,” he said. “If they start evacuating, obviously it’s going to affect our evacuation times.” But, he said, “We’re not going to wait until Saturday to pull the trigger.”
At this point, Flagler County Emergency Management Technician Bob Pickering said, the likelihood of Erika hitting Flagler as a hurricane or a strong tropical storm is small: The chance of tropical storm force winds is about 25%, and the likelihood of winds over 58 miles per hour is 5%.
“As of 2 p.m. this afternoon, the tropical cyclone has weakened a little bit, with winds of 45 mph.” he said. “It’s about 1400 miles away from Flagler County at this time.”
There is speculation that the storm might not survive the next few days, Pickering said. It could break up over the Leeward Islands. If it makes it past the Bahamas, it could strengthen again.
But, he said, “This information can dramatically change. There’s a great deal of uncertainty with this.” If the storm stays on its current forecast track, which takes it just offshore of Flagler County, its winds could cause beach erosion, Pickering said.
Guthrie said the storm is not likely to be a major hurricane or to make landfall in Flagler, but will still be “a wind event” even if it’s miles offshore.
The county is encouraging residents to sign up for the CodeRED weather warning system at https://public.coderedweb.com/CNE/7B3E2CD592C0, and asking people with who have special needs — such as medical conditions that hamper their ability to care for themselves — to apply for the special needs evacuation shelter registry at http://flagleremergency.com/doc/psn_form.pdf., according to a county news release.
For more information about Tropical Storm Erika, including tracking information, visit www.flagleremergency.com.