6am Sunday: Ernesto is approximately 240 miles south east of Jamaica with maximum sustained winds of 50mph. It is moving west at 22mph.
!0pm Saturday: Tropical Storm Ernesto continued to defy forecasters’ expectations during the overnight period Saturday, declining to strengthen while speeding up forward movement.
The storm, maintaining 60 mile per hour sustained winds while moving forward at a rapid 22 miles per hour, was still expected to veer well south of Cayman by most of the major forecast models.
However, its increased forward speed had forecasters predicting it would actually pass south of Cayman on Monday, rather than Tuesday as first forecast. Also, late Saturday model runs for the storm indicated it likely would not reach hurricane strength before Monday.
The storm had taken a slight west, northwesterly turn which meteorologists simply could not explain. It was expected to resume its westward path on Sunday.
5pm Saturday: Ernesto has strengthened again and is packing 60 mile per hour sustained winds as it continues to head through the Caribbean.
The tropical storm’s track took a slight wobble to the northwest during the day, but it got back on a westward track by 4pm local time. The storm continues to move along at a quick 18 miles per hour.
All forecast models used by the National Hurricane Center are now projecting the storm will go south of Grand Cayman sometime on Tuesday, but how far it will drift that way isn’t known.
The NHC is still predicting Ernesto to turn into a weak hurricane by Sunday evening.
10am Saturday: By late morning Saturday, Tropical Storm Ernesto was headed for the central Caribbean Sea and forecast to become a low-strength hurricane Sunday afternoon.
Despite the aggressive development forecast by the National Hurricane Center in the US, the storm actually lost strength in the eastern Caribbean Saturday morning. Maximum sustained winds dropped to 50 miles per hour while the system continued its forward movement at 18 miles per hour.
Hurricane center meteorologists could not explain the reason for the storm’s sudden weakening and said they still expected it to turn into a Category 1 hurricane by Sunday.
Forecasters also said Ernesto had taken a slight turn to the west-northwest during the last several hours, although nearly all forecast paths still showed the storm going well south of the Cayman Islands sometime between late Monday and early Tuesday.
One storm track used by the National Hurricane Center depicted the storm making a direct hit on the Cayman Islands sometime on Tuesday.
The Cayman Islands government’s National Hazard Management Council will meet Sunday to determine whether public offices would stay open Monday.
The Cayman Islands, especially Grand Cayman, is now in ‘alert’ phase – 72 hours before possibly being affected by Ernesto.
Based on its current path, the ‘Watch’ stage – 48-hours – begins Sunday afternoon. Ernesto is expected to be south-east of Jamaica by Sunday morning; west of that island by Monday morning; and about 150 miles south-west of Grand Cayman by Tuesday morning.
Government workers spent Friday securing the main government administration building, while others such as public works shuttering crews and the hurricane shelter staff) have been put on alert.
“The civil service should ensure the continuity of government’s operations,” said Mr. Manderson.
The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service urges home and business owners to start making all necessary preparations to secure their property and belongings in preparation for any potential evacuation.
“If you do have to leave your property, please make sure that your doors and windows are locked and that you close your hurricane shutters if you have them,” said Acting Chief Superintendent Kurt Walton. “If you have to leave any valuables behind, make sure that they are safely protected within your homes and that you take all necessary steps to make your premises as safe and secure as possible. You should also make sure that your valuables are security marked and that you take notes of makes, models, serial numbers and take photographs. These simple security steps will assist in the recovery of your property if it goes missing.
“The duties of the RCIPS in the event of Tropical Storms or Hurricanes are many and varied and include shelter security, protecting critical infrastructure and, of course, maintaining law and order. Any criminal activity before, during or after any storm activity will not be tolerated and those who engage in it will be dealt with appropriately.”
Business owners are reminded that they should make immediate application for curfew exemption passes. In the event of a Hurricane and the declaration of a curfew, the passes will be issued to key personnel who work within the private sector to allow them to work past the curfew times, as and when required, to assist in the post-hurricane recovery process.
Cayman Islands Postal Services wishes to advise customers to collect mail before 11am tomorrow (Sat) because all post offices will close to the public at that time (Saturday) in order to secure the mail. This is in accordance with Government’s Business Continuity plan in the event of a possible hurricane threat.
Postmaster General apologies for any inconvenience this may cause customers.