Saturday, August 26, 2006

Watching Ernesto

Undoubtedly, some residents along the U.S. Gulf Coast are nervous about Tropical Storm Ernesto this weekend. It is still too early to make a call where this storm will go. However, it does appear likely that this storm will make it into the Gulf of Mexico early next week. It also appears that this storm will become a hurricane either late Sunday or sometime early next week.

Ernesto has gained a little strength today. The storm is still encountering some wind shear, which appears to be keeping it from significant strengthening at this time, but that should change as the wind shear relaxes tomorrow. At that time, Ernesto could begin to strengthen rapidly. The official forecast from Saturday evening calls for Ernesto to become a hurricane Monday. Before then the storm will cross or, at least, move near Jamaica. Here are some links you can use to monitor the latest weather conditions in Jamaica --

After Jamaica, Ernesto's path could take it across western Cuba. Typically when a tropical system interacts with land, frictional effects will cause the storm to weaken. Since Jamaica and western Cuba are small and not mountainous, they should not have much of an impact on the strength of Ernesto. In fact, it looks like Ernesto will continue to strengthen as it moves into the Gulf of Mexico Tuesday. Check out the latest forecast track from the National Hurricane Center --

The forecast for Ernesto really becomes uncertain after it moves into the Gulf. Most computer models are in agreement up until this point, but don't agree so much on what happens after this. The latest data suggests the central Gulf coast to the eastern Gulf coast, specifically from Louisiana to Florida may need to be more concerned about this than the Texas coast.

Another concern for Ernesto is the storm's strength in the Gulf. Conditions in the Gulf should be favorable for it to continue to strengthen. The National Hurricane Center is now forecasting Ernesto to become a category 3 hurricane by Thursday. It is possible for the storm to be stronger than that, but again, it is way to early to say for sure.

News 14 Carolina viewers may wonder if this storm could ever affect the weather in North Carolina. Sometimes when a tropical system makes landfall on the Gulf coast, remnant moisture from the storm gets pushed toward the Carolinas. However, that does not always happen. If it did, that is still about a week or so away, so again, it is way too early to speculate any changes to our forecast in North Carolina.

The only sure thing about Ernesto is that the forecast for the storm will change over the coming days, so stay tuned. We'll keep you posted with tropical updates at :21 after the hour every hour on News 14 Carolina.

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