UPDATE 3: Florida Breathes a Sigh of Relief as Ernesto Fizzles

August 30, 2006

Despite some scattered power cuts and a lot of rain, Tropical Storm Ernesto has proved to be more of an inconvenience than a disaster for most Florida residents.

Ernesto went from a tropical depression to the season’s first hurricane, and now looks set to dissipate once more into a tropical depression, as it moves north over Florida. The 5:00 a.m. bulletin from Miami’s National Hurricane Center put the center of the storm in northeastern Monroe County, about 45 miles/75 kms west-southwest of Miami and about 90 miles/145 kms south-southwest of West Palm Beach. The NHC said “the center of Ernesto is expected to remain over the Florida peninsula for the next day or so.”

Maximum sustained winds are near 45 mph/75 km/hr with higher gusts. The storm is moving toward the north-northwest near 8 mph/13 km/hr. The NHC expects a “turn to the north with an increase in forward speed” later today. But has also indicated that Ernesto could “weaken to a tropical depression later today.” It also said the “the hurricane watch along the Georgia coast has been replaced by a tropical storm warning.”

Tropical storm force winds and heavy rains hit the Florida Keys, and Ernesto still packs some punch. The NHC said “rainbands containing strong gusty winds to tropical storm force will continue to move onshore today in the warning areas,” especially along Florida’s eastern coast, where “tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 105 miles/165 kms from the center.” A recent wind gust of 58 mph/93 km/hr was “reported at the Fowey Rocks C-man station, and wind gusts to tropical storm force have been occurring in the middle and upper Keys.” From 3 to 6 inches (7.6 cms to 15.2 cms) of heavy rain is expected to fall over south and central Florida through today with isolated amounts up to 10 inches (25.4 cms) possible.

As the storm moves north the NHC said: “Moisture will spread northward well in advance of Ernesto through Georgia and the Carolinas today. This could bring 1 to 2 inches of rain as far north as Virginia and Southern Maryland and southern Delaware by Thursday morning with isolated amounts up to 4 inches.”

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