Tropical Storm Ernesto, the fifth named system of the Atlantic season, moved past St. Lucia into the eastern Caribbean, the National Hurricane Center said.
Ernesto is packing winds of 45 miles (75 kilometers) per hour, the center said in an 8 a.m. Atlantic time advisory. The storm is 40 miles west-southwest of St. Lucia moving west at 24 mph. The government of Barbados discontinued a tropical storm warning for the islands, as did Trinidad for Grenada.
The center of the storm “moved over or very near St. Lucia” into the eastern Caribbean this morning, the Miami-based NHC said. Its forecast path shows the storm may possibly grow into a hurricane late this weekend as it moves south and west of Jamaica and may approach Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula near Cancun in about five days.
It’s too early to say if the storm’s track will lead it into the Gulf of Mexico, which according to the U.S. Energy Department is home to 29 percent of oil production, 6.5 percent of U.S. natural-gas output and 40 percent of refining capacity.
“The current thinking is it will be no more than tropical storm strength through the weekend,” said Jim Rouiller, senior energy meteorologist at Planalytics Inc.
Tropical-storm warnings, meaning winds of at least 39 mph may arrive within 12 hours, are in effect for Dominica, St. Lucia, Martinique and Guadeloupe. Rain and high waves generated by the storm may affect the warning area for a day or two.
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