As Tropical Storm Ernesto makes its way through the Caribbean Sea and with the possibility of further strengthening... the islands are already taking precautions.
Ernesto will first come close to Jamaica.
This is the latest from the Jamaican Meteorological Office:
- The centre of Tropical Storm Ernesto was located about 760 kilometres (470 miles) east-southeast of Morant Point, Jamaica or 410 kilometres (255 miles) south of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
- Ernesto continues to move towards the west near 30 km/h (18 mph) and this general motion is expected to continue during the next 48 hours. This will bring the centre of the tropical storm near 200 kilometres (125 miles) south of Jamaica by late Sunday morning.
- Maximum sustained winds are now near 95 km/h (60 mph), with higher gusts, and some strengthening is possible during the next 48 hours. Ernesto could become a hurricane by tomorrow. Tropical storm force winds now extend outward up to 220 km (140 miles) mainly north and east of the centre of Ernesto.
- Based on current projections, southern parts of Jamaica are likely to be within the range of tropical storm force winds (over 63 km/h or 40 mph) and heavy rainfall, exceeding 100 millimetres (4 inches) on Sunday and early Monday.
- All small craft operators, including fishers from the cays and banks, should by now have completed all the necessary safety precautions and are advised to remain in safe harbour until all warning messages have been discontinued and wind and sea conditions have returned to normal.
This is the latest from the Cayman Islands:
- The Cayman Islands (especially Grand Cayman) is now in the 'Alert' phase - 72 hours before possibly being affected by Ernesto.
- Based on its current path, the 'Watch' stage (48-hours before) begins Sunday afternoon, Ernesto is expected to be south-east of Jamaica by Sunday morning; west of that island by Monday morning; and about 150 miles south-west of Grand Cayman by Tuesday morning.
- Government workers spent Friday afternoon securing the main government administration building, while others (such as PWD shuttering crews and the hurricane shelter staff) have been put on alert.
- "The civil service should ensure the continuity of government's operations," said a government official. He noted that a decision will be made by Sunday afternoon if offices will open for business or not.
As more information becomes available, I'll pass it along.