Tropical Storm Ernesto soaks Jamaica

2012-08-06 10:01

Miami - Tropical Storm Ernesto kept on a westerly course in the Caribbean Sea on Sunday and was expected to strengthen slowly over the coming 48 hours while heading towards Mexico's Yucatan, US forecasters said.

Wet and windy conditions were felt in Jamaica on Sunday which caught the outer rain bands of Ernesto, according to Jamaica's emergency management office.

Ernesto's winds and rain failed to dampen the spirits of many Jamaicans who gathered in large street parties in the capital Kingston to watch their star sprinter Usain Bolt race to victory in the 100m track final at the Olympics Games.

The US National Hurricane Centre in Florida said tropical storm conditions were possible along the coast of Honduras by late Monday. A tropical storm watch advisory was also issued for Grand Cayman.

Ernesto was following a predicted track that should keep it at sea until a forecast landfall, possibly at hurricane strength, over Mexico's Yucatan peninsula on Wednesday.

The storm was 375km east of the coast of Honduras at around 23:00 EDT on Sunday, moving west at about 24km/h with maximum sustained winds around 85km/h.

Showers, thunderstorms

Heavy rains were experienced throughout Sunday in Hispaniola and Puerto Rico. Authorities warned of flooding in low-lying areas along the south coast of Jamaica.

Showers and thunderstorms, sometimes severe, were possible on the islands of Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire off Venezuela's northern coast.

"Some strengthening is forecast as Ernesto moves over the northwestern Caribbean Sea on Monday and Tuesday," the US forecasters in Miami said.

Ernesto will be deemed a hurricane if its winds reach 119km/h.

Forecasters expect Ernesto to move into the southern part of the Gulf of Mexico by Thursday but they said it was too early to know whether it could disrupt oil and gas operations in the gulf.

The National Hurricane Centre forecasters said another tropical storm, called Florence, formed on Saturday in the eastern Atlantic and was moving west in open waters. As of early Sunday, forecasters said Florence was about 1 485km west of the Cape Verde Islands.

Active months

With maximum sustained winds of 65km/h, Florence was the sixth named storm of the Atlantic-Caribbean hurricane season, but it faded on Sunday as it moved west-northwest at 20km/h.

"Additional weakening is expected ... and Florence is forecast to become a tropical depression on Monday," the Hurricane Centre reported.

August and September are usually the most active months of the Atlantic-Caribbean hurricane season, which runs from 1 June to 30 November.