MIAMI, Florida (AP) — Forecasters say Tropical Storm Ernesto is pulling away from the Cuban coast and moving toward Florida, but they also say the storm hasn't strengthened yet.
An inland tropical storm watch is in effect for Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee and Sarasota counties. Polk, DeSoto, Hardee and Highlands counties are now under an inland tropical storm warning. Also, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center now say a coastal tropical storm watch is in effect from Englewood north to Tarpon Springs.
At 11 am, Eastern Time, Ernesto was packing 45 mile-per-hour winds and was about 180 miles south-southeast of Miami, moving northwest at 13 miles-per-hour.
Forecasters expect outer bands from Ernesto to hit the Miami area this afternoon, with weather getting worse into the evening. But they say the storm remains disorganized, and only modest strengthening is expected. They say the chance of it becoming a hurricane before hitting Florida is remote.
However, forecasters say there is a chance that Ernesto could become a hurricane after it leaves Florida and takes aim at the Carolinas.