The tropical disturbance pushing its way through the western Atlantic won’t be a disturbance for Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast anytime soon.
The disturbance — a tropical depression that forecasters expected to become Tropical Storm Ernesto by early Thursday — was packing sustained winds of 35 mph Wednesday night and is expected “to intensify with time,” even possibly to hurricane status early next week, a National Weather Service forecaster said.
But a high-pressure area parked over the western Atlantic is expected to keep the storm in the Caribbean Sea instead of drifting north toward South Florida, said Dave Roberts, a Navy hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center.
The National Hurricane Center’s cone of probability places the storm in the Caribbean Sea, beneath Puerto Rico, by Saturday. Forecasters expect to be calling the storm a hurricane by Monday, when it’s projected to reach the waters south of Jamaica, about 600 miles southeast of Miami.
It’ll take a little longer for the storm to strengthen because its current location is only “marginally” conducive for development, Roberts said. For it to gain any strength, the storm would have to make its way into the Caribbean Sea.
“We’re looking for gradual development over the next couple of days,” Roberts said.
A tropical storm watch has been issued for the Lesser Antilles. Should the storm fight its way through the high-pressure area and cut a path north toward Florida, it would be a “considerably weaker” system, Roberts said.
This won’t be the first time a stormed named Ernesto looms over the Atlantic. In 2006, a different Tropical Storm Ernesto struck Aug. 30, with winds that sloshed 3 feet of sand into the Port of Palm Beach’s channel, blocking cargo ships and costing port businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars.
That Ernesto crossed Palm Beach County with winds generally no higher than 40 mph. Its waves caused erosion problems as well.
By Cynthia Roldan
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer