Ernesto strengthensnear Carolinas

Tropical Storm Ernesto strengthened off the coast of Florida and South Carolina Thursday. The storm is expected to make landfall in South Carolina Thursday afternoon and bring excessive rain with it.

BY HEATHER MOYER | CHARLESTON, S.C. | August 31, 2006


Tropical Storm Ernesto strengthened off the coast of Florida and South Carolina Thursday. The storm is expected to make landfall in South Carolina Thursday afternoon and bring excessive rain with it.

Ernesto is nearing hurricane status, with the national Hurricane Center (NHC) noting that the storm's winds are now at 70 miles per hour. A hurricane watch is in effect from Santee River, S.C. to Cape Lookout, N.C. The storm is 90 miles south of Charleston, S.C.

Residents in the Carolinas are preparing for significant rain from Ernesto. The storm's rain and thunderstorm bands are already lashing the states, and meteorologists are warning residents about possible isolated tornadoes and localized flash flooding. The NHC says Tropical Storm Ernesto is expected to drop as much as four to eight inches of rain. Isolated amounts of up to 12 inches are also forecast.

More strengthening is possible in the next 24 hours, said NHC forecasters, and coastal storm surge tide flooding some three to five feet above normal is expected along the Carolina coasts.

After weakening to a tropical depression during its first landfall in Florida, Ernesto restrengthened as it moved back over the Atlantic Ocean late Wednesday. No severe damage has been reported in Florida yet, but damage assessments will continue Thursday. The storm was expected to dump between five and 10 inches of rain in some areas during its move from Key Largo north up through the Melbourne area - yet some areas are only reporting having received two to three inches. Wind gusts around the state measured between 40 and 50 miles per hour.

Two people died in car accidents during the storm.

County emergency management agencies across Florida are reporting that shelter population is rapidly decreasing as residents return home. Some emergency management agencies report that lessons learned from last year's Hurricane Wilma helped avoid problems during Ernesto.

Ernesto's forecasted track has it moving up through North Carolina and over Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York Friday and through the weekend. Heavy rain is expected in those states as well, with forecasters warning about flash flooding. Several of those states are still cleaning up from devastating flooding earlier this summer.

Ernesto formed in the Caribbean earlier this week and was the first hurricane of the 2005 Atlantic season. The storm killed at least two people in Haiti.


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National Hurricane Center

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