Tropical Storm Ernesto churned over the open Caribbean on a course that was yesterday afternoon expected to pass south of Jamaica, where residents stocked up on food and braced for possibly heavy rain.
The US National Hurricane Center said Ernesto was centered at 2am Eastern Daylight Time yesterday about 470km southeast of Kingston, Jamaica.
The storm, though slightly less organized than it was hours earlier, had maximum sustained winds of 95kph. No change in strength was forecast for yesterday.
Ernesto was moving westward at 35kph, the Miami-based center said early yesterday, adding a slow strengthening was expected today as Ernesto crawls across warm Caribbean waters.
Forecasters said Ernesto could still grow into a hurricane early in the week as it continues along a course forecast to take it over the coastal resorts of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula by Wednesday.
With forecasters predicting between 76mm and 152mm in Jamaica, long lines formed at grocery stores in the capital of Kingston as people bought drinking 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 hurricane center said Jamaica should brace for tropical storm conditions beginning yesterday afternoon, adding that some squalls from the system would buffet the south coast of Puerto Rico as well as Hispaniola.
Showers and occasionally heavy thunderstorms were also possible over the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the Miami center added.
Over the weekend, the Jamaican government ordered fishermen on outlying cays to evacuate and head to the main island. The storm was expected to pass close to Pedro Cays yesterday evening, according to local meteorological services.
The storm on Friday swirled over the islands at the Caribbean’s eastern entrance before beginning its crossing of the open Caribbean. Dominica closed 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.
Meanwhile, a new tropical storm, Florence, formed far out in the Atlantic and began to pick up strength. It had maximum sustained winds of 95kph and was about 960km west of the Cape Verde Islands. The hurricane center said it could approach near hurricane strength sometime yesterday.