CSMS Magazine Staff WritersAs the people of Florida brace for a new round of hurricane season, hurricane Ernesto, now drenching Haiti, appears to be in the direct path of Florida Peninsula, according to weather forecasts. But forecasters downgraded Ernesto on Sunday when its sustained winds slowed from 75 miles per hour (120 km per hour) to less than 60 mph (97 kph) per hour as mountainous terrain in southern Haiti disrupted the storm. Officials in Haiti said Ernesto triggered flooding and destroyed at least 13 homes on the island of La Gonave, according to Reuter’s news agency. They were trying to confirm reports the storm killed one person in the port city of Gonaives, where tropical storm flooding killed 3,000 people two years ago. Officials from the Hurricane Center in Miami have predicted that the storm sets to regain hurricane strength after its passes the mountainous terrains of Haiti and Cuba to emerge in the Florida Strait as a category 1 hurricane as early as tomorrow before making landfall in the Florida keys on Tuesday. Associated Press reported that the city of Les Cayes, Haiti’s third largest city, suffered heavy downpours, but no death has been reported so far. Ernesto became the first hurricane of the Atlantic season Sunday, then weakened to a tropical storm as it lashed Haiti’s southern coast with heavy rain and flooded homes in the impoverished country. Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller put the country’s security forces on alert, but a northward shift in the storm’s course kept the strongest winds from affecting the island. In Cuba, the government issued a hurricane warning for six eastern provinces. The hurricane was predicted to lose strength while crossing west-central Cuba late Monday but emerge in the Gulf of Mexico with winds up to 110 mph. It then probably would strengthen off Florida’s west coast Wednesday, but the location of any U.S. landfall was unclear, forecasters said. Heavy rain and winds are expected in southern Florida by early Tuesday. In Key West, officials told visitors to the island chain to head for the mainland and ordered all travel trailers and recreational vehicles to leave immediately. The low-lying Keys are connected to one another and the mainland by one highway, U.S. Highway 1. At 8 p.m., Ernesto, the fifth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, was centered near the southwestern tip of Haiti about 140 miles southeast of Guantanamo, Cuba.
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