UPDATE – Tropical Storm Earl staying south of Cayman

The storm, pictured at about 11 a.m. Tuesday, is headed west from Jamaica and will likely pass south of the Cayman Islands today.

UPDATE 3, Tuesday 11:15 a.m.: The National Hurricane Center in the U.S. Tuesday officially upgraded the system to a tropical storm. Satellite images show the center of Tropical Storm Earl is well to the south of Cayman and moving towards Mexico and Belize. Forecasters predict heavy rain associated with Earl will move into the Cayman Islands later today.

UPDATE 2, Tuesday 8 a.m.: The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami forecasts the storm, still classified as a tropical wave, will move into the Cayman area later today.

UPDATE: Cayman weather officials issued a tropical storm watch for the islands at 6 p.m. Monday. 

A strong tropical wave will begin to impact the Cayman Islands Monday night, and forecasters predict the system will likely turn into a tropical depression in the next 48 hours.

Cayman Islands National Weather Service forecaster Allan Ebanks said the system, which as of Monday afternoon was 275 miles south-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica, is becoming more organized as it moves west.

Storm winds as of Monday afternoon were 40 mph to 45 mph, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

The Hurricane Center, in a forecast released at 2 p.m., stated, “Environmental conditions are expected to be conducive for additional development, and a tropical storm is likely to form later today or tonight.

“Regardless of development, locally heavy rainfall and gusty winds, perhaps to tropical storm force, will continue over portions of the Dominican Republic and Haiti through this evening. Tropical storm conditions are likely to occur over Jamaica by this evening, and could reach the Cayman Islands overnight.”

ts earl aug 2 1130 amCayman Airways cancelled a flight to Jamaica Monday evening, due to impacts from the storm there, and the 7 a.m. flight from Grand Cayman to the Brac Tuesday.

Mr. Ebanks said that if the storm continues its quick 20 mph pace to the west, Grand Cayman will likely see 1 to 1.5 inches of rain. He said, the rainfall “could be more if it slows down.”

If the system does continue to develop, it would be the fifth tropical storm or hurricane in the Atlantic this year and would be officially named “Earl.”

Emergency services getting ready

Simon Boxall, with Cayman Islands Hazard Management, said, “We’re not too anxious about it, but we are watching it closely.

“We don’t expect this will have a significant impact on us,” he said, but it could lead to high winds and localized flooding.

He said people should always keep a hurricane preparedness kit ready, including fresh water and non-perishable food, flashlights and batteries.

Mr. Boxall said people should secure boats, especially on the south and east coasts, and bring in yard furniture that could blow away.

Mr. Boxall said he does not anticipate opening hurricane shelters for this storm, but that could change if the forecast gets worse.

The Joint Marine Unit issued a warning Monday, saying boaters should stay off the water while the system passes through the area. In an email, the Marine Unit said if possible, boats should be secured to land.

The Cayman Compass will update this story as new information becomes available.