Hurricane Ernesto moves toward Florida

Cuba ramps up emergency preparations; FL Gov. Jeb Bush tells tourists to evacuate.

hurricane ernesto 88 (photo credit: AP)
hurricane ernesto 88
(photo credit: AP)
Tropical Storm Ernesto battered Haiti, claiming at least one life, and then moved over Cuba on Monday on a track toward Florida, where forecasters expected it to hit shore as a hurricane. "We do expect it to reach the Gulf, maybe as a Category 1 hurricane, possibly a Category 2," said John Cangialosi, a meteorologist with US National Hurricane Center in Miami. "We expect it to be a significant system as it moves over Florida." Cuba ramped up emergency preparations before the 5th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season moved onshore about 32 kilometers (20 miles) west of the US naval base at Guantanamo, with top sustained winds dropping to 75 kilometers (45 miles per hour). It was about 829 kilometers (515 miles) southeast from Key West, moving northwest at 19 kph (12 mph). There were no immediate reports of damage or injury in Cuba, where the communist government regularly undertakes mass evacuations before tropical storms and hurricanes to minimize injury and loss of life. Meanwhile, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush declared an emergency, ordering tourists to evacuate the Florida Keys. "All of Florida is in the area that's being threatened, from the Keys all the way up to the panhandle," said Michael Brennan, another meteorologist at the center. "It's difficult to say where it will be, but in three days we're projecting it anywhere from the eastern Gulf near the Florida panhandle to the western Bahamas," Cangialosi said.