BREAKING NEWS:Cayman under Hurrican Watch

Cayman’s National Hurricane Committee has declared a Hurricane Watch for the Cayman Islands. This means that hurricane conditions could begin affecting the Cayman Islands within 36 hours. Residents should bear in mind that this weather system is expected to increase in intensity and the Cayman Islands is likely to experience rough seas and strong winds, accompanied by heavy rains. Residents of all three islands should continue to be vigilant in view of expectation of strengthening within the next 24 hours.

This storm could be near hurricane strength as it passes close to Jamaica. Ernesto is expected to impact the Cayman Islands as a Category 1 hurricane. All residents should continue to monitor this system very carefully and preparations should be given priority this morning with the anticipation of completing them today. An Alert phase means that Tropical Storm Ernesto is expected to affect the islands within 48 hours. Cayman’s National Weather Service is currently projecting the onset of tropical storm force winds on Cayman Brac and Little Cayman at about 8pm Sunday and on Grand Cayman at about 1am on Monday.

Ernest was on a west, northwest track at 7am Saturday with wind speeds of 50 miles an hour. The system is being closely monitored by the Cayman Islands Weather Service and the National Hurricane Committee. All residents should pay attention to local weather sources and further NHC advisories. Given the current projections, residents should complete their preparations Saturday.

Residents should also keep in mind that there is still potential for the system to change course or to increase or decrease in intensity. At 2pm today the National Hurricane Centre in Miami reported that Jamaica remains under a tropical storm warning and a hurricane watch. The centre of Tropical Storm Ernesto was near latitude 15.5 North, Longitude 71.8 West, or about 245 miles soutweest of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic and about 370 miles east-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica. Ernesto is moving toward the west-northwest near 15 miles per hour and this general motion is expected to continue for the next 24 hours.

This motion should bring the core of Ernesto south of the southern coast of Hispaniola today and near Jamaica on Sunday. Maximum sustained winds are near 50mph with higher gusts. Some strengthening is forecast during the next 24 hours and Ernesto could be near hurricane strength as it passes near Jamaica Tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 115 miles from the centre.

Estimated minimum central pressure is 997MB, 29.44 inches. Tids of up to three feet above normal tide levels are expected on Jamaica as the centre of Ernesto approaches. Rainfall amoungs of four to eight inches, with possible isolated maximum amounts of 12 inches, are expected in associaino with Ernesto across Jamaica. Across ortions of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, rainfall amounts of three to six inches are expected. with isolated amounts of eight inches possible.

As the Cayman Islands National Hurricane Committee continues to monitor Ernesto Cayman Airways is advising the public that Tropical Storm Ernesto has generated inquiries regarding Cayman Airways policies regarding changes of travel plans. Passengers scheduled on Cayman Airways from Sunday August 27 thru Wednesday August 30, 2006 may change their travel plans and any applicable fees or penalties will be waived. Please note however, only one change per ticket is permitted.

At this time, Cayman Airways intends on operating its normal schedule and will issue appropriate press releases should any weather conditions necessitate a change to its schedule. Passengers should also check CAL’s website at www.caymanairways.com for updates.