Monday, August 28, 2006

Ernesto moving off Cuba

Monday, August 28, 2006

Tropical Storm Ernesto's winds have slowed to near 40 mph, down from 75 mph earlier Sunday when it became the first hurricane of the Atlantic season.

As of 6 p.m. Monday, Ernesto was at 21.3 N and 76.9 W., moving off Cuba's northern coast. It is moving NW at 13 mph and its barometric pressure is at 1007 mb.

Storm warnings and watches are:

Tropical storm watch for Polk County
Tropical storm warning for southeast Florida and the Keys
Tropical storm watch on the southwest coast from Sarasota County southward
Hurricane watch on the east coast from New Smyrna Beach southward through the Keys

Bay News 9 chief meteorologist Mike Clay said the storm is currently poorly organized. Clay said the National Hurricane Center is keeping Ernesto as a tropical storm across Florida, not strengthening into a hurricane until it's past Florida.

Ernesto could affect the Florida peninsula by Wednesday.

Ernesto moved onshore in eastern Cuba Monday morning, after lashing the southern coast of Haiti and the Dominican Republic with heavy rain Sunday, flooding homes. At least one person was killed.

Bay News 9 meteorologists said Ernesto was downgraded because it interacted with the land mass of Hispaniola and its wind speed fell to 60 mph. However, it could regain strength rapidly once it emerges over open waters.

Meanwhile, the Polk County Emergency Operations Center has partially activated with minimal staff. There are no plans to open shelters unless the hurricane track changes. Other EOC's in the Bay area will meet today to decide their course of action.

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