Tropical Storm Ernesto – Update #1
Thirty-six hours since the previous positing about Tropical Storm Ernesto, and the storm has tracked to the east is now churning away in the Caribbean Sea.
The latest advisory places the tropical storm still in the eastern half of the Caribbean Sea, roughly 270 miles south of Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic, and 550 miles to the east-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica. Although Tropical Storm Ernesto hasn’t strengthened since the last posting (it sill has maximum sustained winds of 50 mph), the tropical storm has become slightly better organized.
Tropical Storm Ernesto is currently tracking to the west at 18 mph, taking the storm to the warmer waters of the western Caribbean Sea. The National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, is forecasting for the tropical storm to continue its movement to the west-northwest, keeping the storm well south of Hispaniola and Jamaica. Strengthening is expected to take place sometime on Sunday, with the tropical storm becoming a hurricane probably within the next 36-48 hours.
The big question, however, is whether Ernesto will stay on its southerly course and strike Belize and Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, or if it will split the Mexico-Cuba gap and enter the Gulf of Mexico. Should the storm strike Belize and Mexico, it will significantly weaken and most likely stay in the southern Gulf of Mexico and dissipate somewhere over Mexico. If Ernesto passes east enough of the Yucatan Peninsula (as predicted by two computer models), then it will enter the eastern Gulf of Mexico and pose a threat to the southeastern United States.
The next 24-36 hours will be key as we see which path the storm chooses. If it passes Mexico completely and enters the Gulf of Mexico, chances are good that Ernesto could strengthen into a major hurricane before making U.S. landfall. Coastal residents from Louisiana through the entire Gulf coast of Florida should be keeping an eye on Tropical Storm Ernesto.
A TROPICAL STORM WARNING currently exists for the following location: