MANATEE -- As Tropical Storm Erika continues on its current track toward Florida, Manatee County Emergency Operations Center had no activation plans as of Wednesday afternoon.
Over the next two days, Erika is expected to sweep past the Leeward Islands and head toward Puerto Rico and Hispaniola. Erika started to show signs of weakening Wednesday evening as it encountered stronger upper atmospheric winds. If it makes it past the eastern edge of the Greater Antilles, National Hurricane Center forecasters say Erika could encounter more hurricane-friendly territory near the Bahamas.
At 5 p.m. Wednesday, Erika was about 195 miles east of Antigua with sustained winds of 45 mph. The storm was moving west at 17 mph, but is expected to slow over the next 48 hours.
Don Hermey, county Emergency Management Division chief, said they are still at level-three monitoring, which is a normal daily activity, according to the county document.
"Impacts to Manatee County probably aren't going to be until Sunday or Monday," Hermey said if the storm continues on its current track. "We are going to continue monitoring into Friday. Hopefully by Friday afternoon, we will have some idea of a tentative plan."
Hermey advised residents to "stay tuned to local media to get the latest and greatest information."
Manatee County will also update its social media accounts with new information, Hermey said.
Residents should also "brush up on their own emergency plans for food, water, pets and any kind of special needs they may have," Hermey added.
If the storm keeps on the current track, Hermey said Broward County may do a partial activation of its EOC on Friday, Hermey said.
"We should know by Friday what we are going to need to be doing if anything," he said. "Unfortunately, this storm is still too far away."
If Tropical Storm Erika survives a pass near Puerto Rico and Hispaniola this week, Miami-Dade County emergency managers say they're bracing for tropical storm force winds as early as Sunday.
While forecasts beyond three days are far less certain, Miami-Dade County emergency workers are gearing up just in case.
"What we're telling people now is if you have a plan, good. Stay informed. If you don't have a plan, you shouldn't be wasting any time," said Curtis Sommerhoff, director of the county Office of Emergency Management.
Since it grew into a tropical storm Monday night, Erika has been hard to pin down because of a spread in computer models.
Wednesday evening, some models but not all, had shifted the storm to a more northerly track, a good thing for South Florida.
Because the models remain spread out, forecasters opted to keep South Florida in a cone projecting a Category 1 hurricane Monday.
Still, forecasters warned the track could easily change because long-range projections have such a large margin of error: 180 miles by day four and 240 miles by day five.
"That's a lot of real estate," said hurricane center spokesman and meteorologist Dennis Feltgen.
How Erika responds to the dry air it will encounter through the week -- and how closely it swings by Puerto Rico and Hispaniola where mountain ranges could weaken it -- will also help determine whether the storm can take advantage of conditions around the Bahamas and intensify.
"I know there's a lot of hype that we're in the cone," said Brian McNoldy, a senior research associate at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science. "But there is tremendous uncertainty with this storm because in three days, it might not even be a storm."
Erika poses a close enough call emergency managers swung into action. Sommerhoff said Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez is ready to warn the public Friday depending on the storm's path. Shelters could also be opened and other emergency measures taken Saturday, he said.
The county has also beefed up information on its website, including storm surge software that allows residents to enter addresses to find out if they live in an evacuation zone. The website also includes a list of grocery stores and gas stations outfitted with generators, which Sommerhoff said will be updated if the storm hits.
"A lot of our actions will have to take place Friday to Saturday," he said. "So the best thing to do is obviously stay tuned to the information."
Wednesday evening, forecasters maintained tropical storm warnings for Anguilla, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, St. Martin, St. Barthelemy, Montserrat, Antigua, Barbuda, St. Kitts, Nevis, Puerto Rico, Vieques, Culebra, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands. Tropical storm watches were issued for Guadeloupe, the north coast of the Dominican Republic from Cabo Engano to CaboFrances Viejo, the Southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Jenny Staletovitch of the Miami Herald contributed to this report.
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.