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Tropical Storm Ernesto expected to pass Sunday south of Jamaica; island braces for heavy rain
KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) ¯¯¯ Tropical Storm Ernesto swirled westward through the central Caribbean early Sunday, heading for a pass south of Jamaica that could bring several inches of rain to the island.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the storm wasn't expected to strengthen much beyond its 60 mph (95 kph) winds during the day. But it was forecast to gradually begin gaining power Monday and possibly reach hurricane strength by Monday evening.
Ernesto was following a course predicted to take it south of the Cayman Islands on Monday and over the beach resorts of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula by Wednesday.
With forecasters predicting possible rains of up to three to six inches in Jamaica, islanders stood in long lines at grocery stores Saturday in the island's capital of Kingston to buy bottled 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 Jamaican government ordered fishermen on outlying cays to evacuate and move to the main island.
Ernesto had maximum sustained winds of about 60 mph (95 kph) as of 2 a.m. EDT Sunday, according to the hurricane center in Miami. The storm's center was about 290 miles (470 kilometers) southeast of Kingston and was moving westward at 22 mph (35 kph).
The hurricane center said Jamaica should brace for tropical storm conditions beginning Sunday afternoon. It said some squalls from the system would buffet the south coast of Puerto Rico as well as Hispaniola on Sunday.
Showers and occasionally heavy thunderstorms also were possible over the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the Miami center added.
A new tropical storm, Florence, formed far out in the Atlantic and began to pick up strength over the weekend. It had maximum sustained winds of 60 mph (95 kph) and was about 600 miles (960 kilometers) west of the Cape Verde Islands. The hurricane center said it could be near hurricane strength sometime Sunday.