|Tropical Storm Ernesto Expected to Make Landfall Tuesday Night, Possibly as a Category 1 Hurricane
Current location: 18.1° N, 85.0° W, as of 11:00AM EDT
Movement: west-northwest at 14 mph
Maximum sustained winds: 65 mph
Distance to nearest population centers: about 220 miles east of Chetumal, Mexico
Hurricane Warning: entire coast of Belize, Chetumal to Tulum on the east coast of the Yucatán Peninsula
Tropical Storm Warning: the coast of Honduras from the Nicaragua border west to Punta Sal, including the Bay Islands; north of Tulum to Cancun on the Yucatan east coast; south of Celestun to Chiltepec along the Yucatan west coast
Tropical Storm Watch: the coast of Honduras west of Punta Sal to the Honduras/Guatemala border
Other hazards: rainfall accumulations of 3 to 5 inches along the northern coast of Honduras, with isolated maximum amounts of 8 inches in mountainous areas; over northern Guatemala, southern portions of the Yucatan Peninsula, and Belize total rainfall amounts of 4 to 8 inches are expected, with isolated maximum amounts of 12 inches, which are likely to cause dangerous flash floods and mud slides over higher terrain; along the immediate coast near and to the north of where the storm center makes landfall, storm surge will raise water levels by as much as 1 to 3 feet above normal tide levels, and the surge will be accompanied by large, dangerous waves
Expected damage: possible damage from mudslides and flooding; damage to insured exposures is expected to be minor
Following a period of brief intensification overnight, Tropical Storm Ernesto continues toward a landfall near Chetumal, the capital of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo on the Yucatan Peninsula near the border with Belize.
As of the National Hurricane Center’s (NHC) 11:00AM Advisory, Ernesto is about 220 miles east of Chetumal and is moving toward the west-northwest at about 14 mph. The storm’s maximum sustained winds are near 65 mph. Deep convection developed within Ernesto late last night and expanded for several hours, then leveled off. The storm has since maintained a moderate-to-strong tropical storm intensity. Although Ernesto passed a little north of yesterday’s expected track, it remained close enough to the coast of Honduras that it took up some dry air, slowing its intensification. Ernesto’s storm-force winds extend outward from its center up to 140 miles.
Ernesto’s passage so far has been relatively uneventful and the storm has made no direct hits on land since it entered the Caribbean early Saturday. It did bring rain and 35 mph winds to Jamaica Sunday, but not so much as to interrupt celebrations on the island for its 50th Independence Anniversary and the Olympic win the same day by Usain Bolt. Honduran officials adopted a wait-and-see policy, although they did send food packages to the country’s northern coast as a precaution. However, officials in Nicaragua reportedly evacuated hundreds of people living along the coast near its border with Honduras.
Exposure at Risk
Residential properties in the border region of Belize and Quintana Roo where Ernesto is expected to make landfall are commonly constructed of masonry or wood, and poor construction practices, such as the use of tin roof coverings, can lead to significant damage even in relatively low wind speed conditions. Well-constructed homes normally receive relatively little damage from tropical storm-force winds. In Mexico, most insured residential structures are made of confined masonry, which performs better than plain masonry under lateral wind loads because of its use of bond beams and columns. However, a large percentage of houses built every year in Mexico are constructed without a building permit, perhaps as large as 50%.
Forecast and Intensity
Tropical Storm Ernesto’s current movement is projected to continue through the day and into the night. Following the current NHC track, this means that Ernesto will continue to skirt north of the Honduran coast and approach the Belize/Mexico border region on the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. Through this passage, Ernesto is expected to strengthen somewhat and is forecast to reach hurricane status before making landfall.
After landfall, Ernesto will weaken rapidly as it interacts with the Yucatan Peninsula and, sometime tomorrow, turn toward the west. Its strongest winds will be to the right of its landfall location—over the sparsely populated tropical jungle region of Yucatan north of Belize. This area is far south of the tourist centers of Cozumel and Playa del Carmen, which should remain outside the reach of even tropical storm-force winds. Thus, at present, wind impacts from Ernesto are not expected to be significant.
Similarly, flooding is not anticipated to be widespread because Ernesto’s forward movement is expected to remain steady, rainfall rates will be moderate, and there are no major topographical features in the area to force locally heavier amounts of precipitation or channel unexpected rainfall accumulations.
The current forecast calls for Ernesto to pass over the Yucatan Peninsula and emerge over the Bay of Campeche tomorrow afternoon. Its time over the warm Gulf waters is expected to be short and it is not forecast to regain hurricane intensity before making a second landfall probably Friday morning.
AIR’s Central America and Mexico Tropical Cyclone teams will continue to monitor Ernesto closely and will provide additional information as events warrant. Former tropical storm Florence, which has been reported on previously, has dissipated over the Atlantic basin and is no longer being tracked by the National Hurricane Center.
The information contained in this and past NewsALERTs is available on the ALERTwebsite.