In this still-quiet year for tropical development in the Atlantic and Caribbean region, the fifth named storm, tropical storm Erika, provides perhaps the first real hurricane threat to Florida in years, with the forecast showing that Erika will head in that states direction.
Latest update at 10:00 BST, 28th August (05:00 ET):
Tropical storm Erika is still affecting the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico with strong winds and heavy rain. The rainfall from Erika has caused significant damage in some Caribbean nations, with flooding and landslides resulting in property damage and lives lost. There will be an insurance impact due to Erika, but it’s too early to understand whether reinsurance contracts would be affected, or whether the CCRIF SPC could make a payout through its extreme rainfall product.
Erika has regained some strength, with sustained winds back at 50mph, higher gusts to as much as 65mph and minimum central pressure of 1006mb. Erika is still not a strong tropical storm but the forecast continues to call for intensification and a track towards Florida and the U.S.
Erika is now going to cross the Dominican Republic and Haiti, where land interaction could weaken the storm again for a time. Rainfall totals will be high, with 4 to 8 inches widespread and as much as 12 inches in some areas.
The forecast for Erika has now been changed a little to suggest that the storm may not reach hurricane status. However the path now points to a direct landfall around the Florida Keys.
It is worth watching as what will happen when Erika skirts Cuba, whether the storm can intensify over warmer seas. That will be important to watch for the insurance, reinsurance and ILS market. However, it should be noted that there is significant uncertainty in the forecast still.
The latest update puts Erika traveling up the length of Florida as a tropical storm with heavy rains and near hurricane force winds the main problem. The intensity at that time remains uncertain, but sea surface temperatures are still high and should Erika find the gulf stream, then hurricane intensity seems almost assured.
But for now the forecast seems to have eased and actually the direct hit at the southern tip of Florida could be a better outcome for the state, than a storm that tracked the coast intensifying all the way. It’s still important to keep up with changes to the forecast over the coming days, as Erika passes the remaining Caribbean islands.
It’s hard to say if a hurricane threat remains for Florida, but based on the latest update from NOAA it seems that threat is reducing and a tropical storm is now becoming more likely when Erika reaches the state.
We’ll continue to update this post over the coming days. The threat to Florida will be clearer over the weekend and by late Sunday or very early Monday we should have a much better idea of Erika’s intensity and track forecast.
The latest forecast models can be seen below.
The tracking map and forecast path above shows that tropical storm Erika is expected to maintain its tropical storm status through the Leeward islands, without being subjected to degradation due to wind shear, as recent storm Danny was.
Once across the Leeward islands and Puerto Rico, the tropical storm Erika forecast predicts that we will soon see hurricane Erika form.
The reason for this forecast is the high sea surface temperatures around the northern Caribbean and Bahamas, as well as lower wind shear in that area. So if Erika can survive the Caribbean wind shear and dry air threat, which is not guaranteed, and gets over to those warmer waters, intensification is highly likely to occur.
So tropical storm Erika may become hurricane Erika as early as Saturday morning, according to the latest NOAA forecast intelligence. From there Erika is likely to be steered in the direction of Florida, with the forecast models then diverging, as to whether Erika will make landfall in Florida, enter the Gulf of Mexico, recurve out to sea, or even head further up the east coast.
Whatever the storm’s course, Erika remains the first real hurricane threat to Florida or the U.S. coastline in some years and as a result deserves watching by the insurance, reinsurance, ILS and cat bond investor community.
It seems that Erika presents the first real hurricane threat to Florida that we’ve seen for a number of years, based on the current forecasts. With no direct hurricane hits on the state since Wilma in 2005, Florida is well overdue seeing a hurricane approach it.
At the moment the forecasts only show Erika reaching Category 1 hurricane strength on Saturday, however if Erika makes it that far and follows the forecast path, there will be considerable uncertainty in just how much intensification could occur around the Bahamas area, where seas are warm and land interaction can be minimal.
Erika is perhaps the most important tropical storm for the insurance, reinsurance and catastrophe bond market to keep a watch for in years. It’s far too early to discuss landfall probabilities or eventual hurricane strength, but there is definitely a chance that Florida will see this storm, at some level of intensity.
With Florida remaining ground-zero for the world’s property catastrophe reinsurance, insurance-linked securities (ILS) and catastrophe bond market, any storm that approaches the state will receive a significant amount of interest.
The insured values at risk to hurricane damage and storm surge are perhaps greater than anywhere else in the world. For the ILS market specifically, the Florida property catastrophe reinsurance market sees the highest participation of ILS and third-party capital, resulting in the most cat bond and collateralized reinsurance exposure of any location in the world.
It’s very early days with Erika. While the tropical storm had a very strong chance of becoming a hurricane and getting close to Florida, how close it gets, whether it makes landfall and also how strong Erika is at the time, is all very uncertain still.
But Erika is definitely an Atlantic storm to watch. The tracking map and forecast model images in this article will update automatically and we’ll likely begin to update this page as the storm develops.
You can also track this and every storm over on our 2015 Atlantic Hurricane Season page.