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Tropical Storm Erika heads toward Florida as governor declares state of emergency

A couple walks on a pier under cloudy

A couple walks on a pier under cloudy skies as Tropical Storm Erika approaches the island in Naguabo, Puerto Rico, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015. Erika was expected to move near Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands on Thursday and be near or just north of the Dominican Republic on Friday as it heads toward Florida early next week, possibly as a hurricane. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo) Credit: AP

Tropical Storm Erika hammered Puerto Rico Friday morning with heavy rain and maximum sustained winds of 50 mph, and Florida is in its path, the National Weather Service said.

While forecasters no longer expect Erika will strike Florida as a hurricane Sunday night into Monday morning, they think it could be a tropical storm with some might.

Chris Landsea, a meteorologist with the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami, told The Associated Press that it's also possible Erika could weaken as it passes over the mountains of Hispaniola, the island that includes the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Still, in Florida, officials are telling residents to be prepared. In anticipation of wicked weather, Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Friday declared a state of emergency.

In a tropical storm warning early Friday for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, the service said as much as 8 inches of rain could fall.

Erika was about 150 miles east-southeast of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, on Friday morning, and was moving west at 17 mph, the service's Hurricane Center said.

Meteorologists on Long Island say it's way too early to tell what the storm might bring to Nassau and Suffolk counties.

"As of now, we look OK," News 12 Long Island meteorologist Rich Hoffman said.

Patrick Maloit, a meteorologist at the service's Upton office, said Erika is likely to weaken as it moves up the Atlantic coast.

"There is potential we might get some moisture from the system," he said. "But it's still a little too early to tell whether it gets here or not.

"There's a chance we could get nothing from it, too. The range of possibilities goes from nothing to a little extra rain."

Maloit said if it does generate rain for Long Island it would be toward the end of next week, he said.

In a precipitation-poor summer, Maloit said rain "would be beneficial. Definitely."

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