Biggest threat from Emily may be heavy rain
Tropical Storm Emily was looking a bit disheveled this morning, with no increase in strength and increasing signs of disorganization as the storm approached Hispaniola. Top sustained winds remained at 50 mph.
The storm's primary threat to the island's people will be heavy rains, forecasters said. Totals of 6 to 12 inches are expected in the Dominican Republic and Haiti today, with some locations in danger of a deluge of up to 20 inches.
"THESE RAINS COULD CAUSE LIFE-THREATENING FLASH FLOODS AND MUD SLIDES," forecasters said.
Tropical Storm Warnings are posted for both countries on Hispaniola, and for eastern Cuba and the southeastern Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands. Watches are up for the Central Bahamas.
UPDATE, 2:30 p.m.: Emily's threat has caused several cruise lines to change course and/or cancel stops for some of its ships. Here's more.
There is some chance that Emily will fall apart as it crosses the mountainous terrain on Hispaniola. But it could also reform north of the island and become a concern for coastal interests from Florida to the Carolinas.
And while we're on the subject, the hurricane forecast team at Colorado State University said today they will not be changing their forecast for the 2011 Atlantic season.
"We are predicting the same levels of activity that we were forecasting in early April and June due to favorable Atlantic and neutral ENSO [El Nino/La Nina) conditions in the tropical Pacific," said William Gray. Continued warm water conditions and unusually sea-level low pressure anomalies in the tropical are also part of their reasoning.
So the CSU team continues to predict 16 named storms, nine of which will become hurricanes. And five of those hurricanes will reach "major" (Cat. 3) strength, if they're right.
They have recalculated their forecast for landfalls by a major hurricane along the US coast. They give it a 70 percent chance, well above the long-term average of 52 percent. They put the chances for a major storm making landfall somewhere on the East Coast, including Florida, at 46 percent. The long-term average is 31 percent.
The National Hurricane Center will post its August forecast update on Thursday.