Tropics active as Tropical Storm Ernesto, Florence gain strength

Tropical Storm Florence is gaining strength far from land Saturday. Florence has maximum sustained winds of 50 mph and is about 515 miles off the Cape Verde Islands.

The storm is moving northwest at 15 mph. A gradual turn toward the west is expect at a slower forward speed is expected over the next few days, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Florence is not expected to reach hurricane force as it marches generally westward although some increase in strength is possible.

Tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 70 miles.

Tropical Storm Ernesto blew across open waters Saturday on a projected path that would skirt Jamaica and hit Mexico after dumping heavy rain on islands in the eastern Caribbean.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Ernesto was expected to roll south of Jamaica as a hurricane Sunday evening. The forecast would carry it into the coastal resorts of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula as a Category 1 hurricane on Wednesday.

Long lines formed at grocery stores in the Jamaican capital of Kingston as people bought water, bread and canned goods.

"We're going to have heavy rains, so I'm stocking up," said Marco Brown, a Kingston resident in his late 50s.

The Jamaican government ordered fishermen who live in outlying cays to evacuate and head to the main island. The storm is expected to pass close to Pedro Cays on Sunday evening, according to the local Meteorological Service Office.

The storm earlier forced Dominica to close its airport for two days, and St. Lucia ordered shops to close for several hours, but no damage or flooding was reported on islands affected by the storm.

The hurricane center said Ernesto had maximum sustained winds of about 50 mph (85 kph) Saturday afternoon. It was about 270 miles south of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic and was moving westward at 18 mph.

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