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Ernesto May Grow Into Hurricane Before Yucatan Landfall

Aug. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Tropical Storm Ernesto is heading toward Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula with 65 miles (100 kilometers) per hour winds and may intensify to hurricane status before landfall, the National Hurricane Center said.

The Atlantic hurricane season’s fifth named storm was moving west-northwest along the Honduran coast at 13 mph, the Miami-based center said in an advisory at 8 a.m. East Coast time. Ernesto was 250 miles east of Belize City.

Ernesto is forecast to become a hurricane today as it approaches the east coast of the Yucatan. It is forecast to make landfall near Chetumal, Mexico, early tomorrow, then weaken as it crosses the peninsula and emerges in the Bay of Campeche as a tropical storm, the center said.

There’s a chance the system will pick up some strength before returning to land in southern Mexico on Aug. 10 and dissipating.

The Bay of Campeche is south of the main body of the Gulf of Mexico, which is home to 29 percent of U.S. oil output, 6.4 percent of natural-gas production and 40 percent of its refining capacity, according to the Energy Department.

A hurricane watch was posted today for Chetumal to Punta Allen on the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. Tropical storm watches and warnings are in effect for the coast of Honduras, the Mexican Yucatan coast to Cancun and parts of the west coast of the peninsula.

Heavy Rain

As much as 12 inches (30 centimeters) of rain may fall over the southern Yucatan and Guatemala, creating “dangerous” flash floods and mudslides, the center said. The sea may rise 4 feet (1.2 meters) above normal tide levels near landfall.

Ernesto’s speed remained below 74 mph, the minimum for a Category 1 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale.

“If Ernesto survives its crossing of the Yucatan Peninsula, the potential exists for it to re-strengthen over the Bay of Campeche and make a second landfall on Mexico’s coast” south of Veracruz, Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground in Michigan, said on his blog.

Computer models “predict that Ernesto will pop out so far south in the Bay of Campeche that the storm will have less than 24 hours over water,” he said. “This makes significant re-intensification unlikely.”

A tropical depression formed today off the west coast of Mexico. The system, with 35-mph winds 605 miles south of the tip of Baja California, will stay at sea, the NHC said.

Two other systems, southwest of the Cape Verde Islands and between Cape Verde and Barbados, are being monitored and are given 20 and 10 percent chances, respectively, of forming into tropical cyclones within 48 hours.

To contact the reporters on this story: Brian K. Sullivan in Boston at; Rupert Rowling in London at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dan Stets at

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