State of emergency declared in Florida; tropical storm nears

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Friday that Tropical Storm Erika poses a “severe threat to the entire state” and declared a state of emergency.

The storm could hit the peninsula Monday. Scott made his declaration shortly after forecasters adjusted the trajectory of the storm to show that it’s predicted to strike the southern tip of the state and then traverse northward.

The declaration ahead of time gives wide latitude to Scott and other state officials to prepare for the storm. The order calls for the activation of the National Guard and gives authorities the ability to waive tolls and rules to allow emergency crews and vehicles to move throughout the state.

A hurricane hasn’t hit Florida in 10 years. The latest forecasts show that Erika will remain a tropical storm when it makes landfall.

Scott said this week that the state has been fortunate in recent years, but he urged Floridians to watch the news and prepare for the worst. Some parts of the state are still recovering from heavy rains that caused flooding this summer.

On Friday, Erika lashed Puerto Rico with wind and rain and had killed at least four people. The storm was about 90 miles east-southeast of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and was moving west at 17 mph with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph.

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