TS Ernesto Threatens Gulf; Could Become Season’s First Hurricane

Miami’s National Hurricane Center is currently tracking Tropical Storm Ernesto as it enters the Gulf of Mexico. As of 11:00 a.m. EDT the storm’s center was located near latitude 15.1 north/longitude 71.2 west or about 250 miles-405 kms south-southwest of Santo Domingo in the Dominican republic and about 420 miles-680 kms east-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica.

The NHC said: “Ernesto is moving toward the west-northwest near 14 mph – 22 km/hr and this general motion is expected to continue for the next 24 hours, brining the storm center “south of the southern coast of Hispaniola today and near Jamaica on Sunday.

“Maximum sustained winds are near 50 mph-85 km/hr with higher gusts. Some strengthening is forecast during the next 24 hours, and Ernesto could be near hurricane strength as it passes near Jamaica.

“Tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 115 miles-185 kms from the center. Estimated minimum central pressure is 997 mb/29.44 inches.”

The Jamaican government has already issued a tropical storm warning, but has also put in place a hurricane watch, as have the authorities in the Cayman Islands. A tropical storm warning remains in effect for the south coast of Hispaniola from the Haiti-Dominican Republic border westward to the southwestern tip of Haiti.

The NHC’s projected forecast indicates that Ernesto is likely to follow a path that would take it along the southern coast of Cuba, passing over the northwestern tip of the island late Monday or early Tuesday. A shift in direction would take the storm across the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula. On its current heading Ernesto would come ashore along the Gulf Coast somewhere between the Florida panhandle and eastern Texas late next week.

The NHC warned that “tides of up to 3 feet/1meter above normal tide levels are expected on Jamaica as the center of Ernesto approaches. Rainfall amounts of 4 to 8 inches [10.16 to 20.32 cms], with possible isolated maximum amounts of 12 inches [30.5 cms] are expected in association with Ernesto across Jamaica.” Rainfall in Haiti and the Dominican Republic is expected to be between 3 to 6 inches (7.6 to 15.24 cms) with isolated amounts of 8 inches possible.