MIAMI — Tropical Storm Ernesto kept on a westerly course in the Caribbean Sea yesterday and was expected to strengthen and soak Jamaica as it passes the island on its way to the Yucatan, US forecasters said.
Tropical storm conditions were expected to reach Jamaica last night and Honduras by today, the National Hurricane Center said. 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 335 km south of Kingston, Jamaica, yesterday with maximum sustained winds weakening somewhat to 85 kph.
Heavy rains were expected in Hispaniola and Puerto Rico. Three to 6 inches were expected in Jamaica. Showers and thunderstorms were possible on the islands of Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire off Venezuela's northern coast.
"Ernesto is forecast to become a hurricane in the northwestern Caribbean in a day or two," the forecasters said.
Ernesto would be deemed a hurricane if its winds reach 119 kph. Forecasters expect Ernesto to move into the southern Gulf of Mexico by Thursday but it was too early to know whether it could disrupt oil and gas operations.
US National Hurricane Center forecasters said another tropical storm, called Florence, formed on Saturday in the eastern Atlantic and was moving west in open waters.