Tropical Storm Ernesto heads toward Jamaica

August 4, 2012 - 4:37 PM
NOAA CARIBBEAN

This NOAA satellite image taken Saturday, August 4, 2012 at 01:45 PM EDT shows Tropical Storm Ernesto now about 295 miles south-southeast of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic with maximum sustained winds up to 50 mph. This system shows some weakening as it continues on a westward path at 18 mph. Meanwhile in the north, an area of low pressure over the Bahamas produces more showers and thunderstorms that reach into Florida. This system has a low, 10% chance of tropical cyclone development. (AP Photo/Weather Underground)

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) — Tropical Storm Ernesto blew across open waters Saturday on a projected path that would skirt Jamaica and hit Mexico after dumping heavy rain on islands in the eastern Caribbean.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Ernesto was expected to swirl by south of Jamaica as a hurricane Sunday evening. The forecast projected the storm would move over the coastal resorts of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula as a Category 1 hurricane Wednesday.

Long lines formed at grocery stores in the Jamaican capital of Kingston as people bought water, bread and canned goods.

"We're going to have heavy rains, so I'm stocking up," said Marco Brown, a Kingston resident in his late 50s.

The Jamaican government ordered fishermen who live in outlying cays to evacuate and head to the main island. The storm was expected to pass close to Pedro Cays on Sunday evening, according to the local Meteorological Service Office.

The storm earlier forced Dominica to close its airport for two days, and St. Lucia ordered shops to close for several hours, but no damage or flooding was reported on islands affected by the storm.

The U.S. hurricane center said Ernesto had maximum sustained winds of about 60 mph (95 kph) late Saturday afternoon. It was about 495 miles (800 kilometers) east-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica, and was moving westward at 18 mph (30 kph).

Meanwhile, a new tropical storm, Florence, formed far out in the Atlantic. It had maximum sustained winds of 50 mph (85 kph) and was about 515 miles (830 kilometers) west of the Cape Verde Islands. The hurricane center said it was not expected to reach hurricane force as it moved generally westward.