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Ernesto batters Haiti, churns toward FL

Tropical Storm Ernesto could potentially be a Category 2 or Category 3 hurricane by the time it makes landfall as early as Wednesday in Florida, according to the National Hurricane Center.

BY SUSAN KIM | BALTIMORE | August 28, 2006

Tropical Storm Ernesto could potentially be a Category 2 or Category 3 hurricane by the time it makes landfall as early as Wednesday in Florida, according to the National Hurricane Center.

By Monday morning, South Florida appeared to be in Ernesto's path, according to the latest forecasts. After landfall, the storm will likely cross Florida and head back to the Atlantic Ocean on Friday. Landfall could occur near the Miami area.

A hurricane watch was issued for South Florida as Tropical Storm Ernesto churned closer Monday.

The National Hurricane Center issued the watch from Deerfield Beach southward along the east coast, and from Chokoloskee southward on the west coast. Hurricane conditions could develop in the area within 36 hours. The Keys were put under a hurricane watch on Sunday afternoon, and visitors were ordered to leave.

Gov. Jeb Bush issued a state of emergency for the entire state of Florida.

By Monday morning, Ernesto had 50-mph sustained winds, and was located 600 miles southeast of the Florida Keys. The storm was moving northwest at 12 mph.

A hurricane over the weekend, Ernesto weakened to a tropical storm as it moved toward southeast Cuba, where 300,000 people were evacuated. The storm lashed Haiti, killing one person and bringing 20 inches of rain.

Many residents in Florida are still recovering from the 2004 and 2005 hurricane season. As faith-based and voluntary agencies helped Floridians rebuild their homes, they constructed more hurricane-proof housing than in the past. Disaster responders are hoping some of these mitigation efforts will pay off should Ernesto make landfall.


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