Tropical Storm Ernesto forecast to impact Caribbean during next 48 hours

6th tropical depression 240 miles WSW of Cape Verde Islands

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HOUSTON - As Tropical Storm Ernesto moves toward the eastern and central Caribbean Friday, Tropical Depression #6 has formed in the far eastern Atlantic, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

In the 10 p.m. Friday advisory, the National Hurricane Center said Ernesto was at 13.9 North, 65.6 West, or about 315 miles south-southeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico. It had maximum sustained winds of 50 mph and was moving to the west at 18 mph.

"Ernesto has not changed much since Thursday. It is simply moving too fast to gain strength," KPRC Local 2 chief meteorologist Frank Billingsley said.

This weekend, Ernesto will move west and fight some fairly strong wind-shear, so it shouldn't strengthen too much through Sunday.

"Over the weekend we anticipate just a tropical storm, but by the time we get to Monday this may be out of the wind shear zone, over some warm water and turning into a Category 1 hurricane of 75 to 90 mph winds," Billingsley said.

It could get even stronger.

"Once the storm enters the western Caribbean, the wind shear weakens and the heat content in the water is ripe for intensification. A couple of the hurricane models have Ernesto strengthening into a category 2 or 3 hurricane by Thursday," KPRC Local 2 meteorologist Anthony Yanez said. "The models fan out at that time so right now there is no telling where Ernesto will ultimately end up hitting. The consensus seems to be Mexico or Texas, but that is a 1,000 mile spread."

While the Houston area does not need to be nervous about Ernesto right now, it is a storm that all of us should keep an eye on. Should the storm follow the expected path, it would be in the Gulf of Mexico in a week to 10 days and could eventually pose a threat to the Texas Gulf Coast.

"The end of the five-day forecast and the model runs out to seven days all point to a system coming into the Gulf of Mexico," KPRC Local 2 hurricane expert Bill Read said. "A system that comes in the Gulf of Mexico can't get out of there without hitting land. The big question is: How strong will it be?"

There's deep, warm water just south of Cuba, and Ernesto is expected to go through that area. Ernesto could strengthen significantly in that area.

A lot could change between now and then, but at the very least Ernesto should serve as a reminder that we all need to have our hurricane preparedness plan in place should the very worst occur.

As for our weekend, the ridge of high pressure that kept us hot and dry all week moves west and that means we may get some rain.

Meanwhile, Tropical Depression #6 has formed in the far eastern Atlantic. It is about 240 miles west-southwest of the southernmost Cape Verde Islands with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph. It was moving west-northwest at around 16 mph and was expected to continue in that general motion at a slightly slower speed for the next two days. If this system should develop into a tropical storm, it will be named Florence.


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