'Ernesto' upgraded to hurricane
MIAMI, Florida, United States - Ernesto became the second hurricane of the Atlantic season on Tuesday, August 7 (Wednesday, August 8 in Manila) as it moved toward the Yucatan Peninsula with 80 mile-an-hour (130 kilometer-an-hour) winds, the National Hurricane Center said.
"Air Force hurricane hunters find that Ernesto has become a hurricane," the Miami, Florida-based center said.
The weather center rated Ernesto as a category one hurricane on the five-point Saffir-Simpson scale.
However, forecasters said Ernesto could strengthen further before it makes landfall on Central America's Yucatan Peninsula, where the summer tourist season is in full force.
Hurricane warnings were in place along the entire coast of Belize and up the east coast of the Yucatan in Mexico as far as the tourist resorts of Cancun and Cozumel.
At 1800 GMT Tuesday afternoon, Ernesto was 185 miles (295 kilometers) southeast of Chetumal, Mexico.
The center of the storm remained near Honduras' coastline, where authorities have ordered some evacuations, but residents contacted by AFP said rains had not been excessive and rivers were flowing normally.
The storm, which began drenching Caribbean countries last Thursday, was expected to reach the Yucatan coast by late Tuesday or early Wednesday, bringing high winds and heavy rain.
This is the second hurricane, and the fifth tropical depression, in the Atlantic Ocean since the season began on June 1.
Chris, which strengthened to hurricane force on June 21, stayed far off land, and vanished without causing any damage.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has forecast a "less active season, compared to recent years."
The agency predicts there could be between 9 and 15 tropical storms before the season ends in November, of which about half could become hurricanes.
The forecasters predict just a handful will become more the powerful -- and dangerous -- category three or higher storms. - Agence France-Presse