PORT ROYAL, Jamaica (AP) — Fishermen near Jamaica’s capital tied wooden skiffs down along a rocky shore Sunday as a poorly organized Tropical Storm Ernesto spun past the Caribbean country’s southern coast on a path expected to carry it by Honduras and across the Yucatan Peninsula into the Gulf of Mexico.
Emergency officials said some eastern parts of Jamaica were drenched by rain from Ernesto and more heavy rainfall and gusty winds were likely as the rapidly moving storm passed by, though U.S. forecasters said it was becoming less organized.
Jamaica’s emergency management agency urged people in flood-prone areas to be on alert and avoid flooded waterways and submerged roads. The government earlier ordered fishermen on outlying cays to evacuate and move to the main island.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller called on all Jamaicans to make the necessary preparations to ensure their safety.
“I urge you to especially consider the children, the sick, persons with disabilities, the elderly, and the most vulnerable in the society,” she said.
Daniel Edwards, a dreadlocked fisherman in Port Royal, a small fishing village at the tip of a spit of land near Kingston’s airport, said vigorous lightning lit up the sky over the sea late Saturday and early Sunday.
Bailing out his small wooden fishing boat next to a dilapidated wooden dock, Edwards said he wasn’t overly concerned about the storm.
“It’s not much of a muchness,” said the veteran fisherman, decked out in rain gear.
Forecasters said Ernesto could dump up dump two to four inches of rain on the island of less than 3 million people before moving on to begin drenching the coast of Honduras late Monday. It is then expected to move ashore near the Belize-Mexico border Tuesday night and possibly pass into the Gulf of Mexico.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Ernesto could possibly become a hurricane by late in the week while heading toward the Mexican mainland.
A tropical storm watch was in effect for the coast of Honduras, from the border with Nicaragua westward to Punta Castilla, and the island of Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands.
The hurricane center said Ernesto was centered about 220 miles (355 kilometers) south-southwest of Kingston, Jamaica, late Sunday afternoon. It had maximum sustained winds near 50 mph (85 kph) and was moving swiftly westward at 20 mph (32 kph).
Elsewhere, Tropical Storm Florence, which formed far out in the Atlantic, stopped strengthening by early Sunday and was no longer expected to gain strength, the hurricane center said.
Florence’s top sustained winds had slowed to 50 mph (85 kph) by Sunday afternoon and it was 845 miles (1,335 kilometers) west of the Cape Verde Islands. Forecasters said a gradual weakening of the storm was expected over the next couple of days.
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