Ernesto closes in on Central America

Aug. 6, 2012 at 3:06 a.m.

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) - Tropical Storm Ernesto moved closer to the Central American coast Monday evening as authorities in Nicaragua evacuated some people from low-lying areas and Honduras considered evacuations.

With Ernesto predicted to stay at sea while passing along Honduras' northern coast, authorities were monitoring the storm and would decide soon whether to evacuate people, the country's Contingencies Commission said.

Officials in Nicaragua evacuated hundreds of people living along the coast and near the border with Honduras, Guillermo Gonzalez, who is in charge of the country's emergency services, said.

"The scope of action will include a big chunk of the northern Caribbean coast," Gonzalez said.

Ernesto could drop up to five inches of rainfall along Honduras' coast and the northeastern shores of Nicaragua, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

The center's forecast said rain could begin falling late Monday or early Tuesday.

After passing Honduras, the storm is expected to grow to near-hurricane force before moving ashore near the Belize-Mexico border early Wednesday and eventually passing into the southern Gulf of Mexico.

A tropical storm warning was issued for the coast of Honduras, from the border with Nicaragua westward to Punta Sal, including the Bay Islands. Hurricane warnings were posted for Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and all of Belize's coast.

The U.S. hurricane center said Ernesto was centered about 295 miles east of the Honduran island of Roatan late Monday. It had maximum sustained winds near 65 mph and was moving west-northwest at 12 mph.

On Sunday, the storm passed to the south of Jamaica, where authorities said rains fell over much of the island but caused no serious problems.

Far out in the Atlantic, Florence weakened to a tropical depression Monday with maximum sustained winds near 35 mph. Additional weakening was forecast and the hurricane center said Florence was likely to dissipate over the next few days.

Florence was centered about 1,515 miles east of the Caribbean's northern Leeward Islands.



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