The eye of Hurricane Ernesto was expected to cross the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula early Wednesday, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
As of about 11 p.m., Ernesto had maximum sustained winds of about 85 mph as it moved west at 15 mph about 40 miles east of Chetumal, Mexico.
Ernesto began Tuesday as a tropical storm but was officially confirmed a Category 1 hurricane Tuesday afternoon, with maximum sustained winds near 80 mph as it moved west-northwest at 14 mph about 185 miles east of Chetumal at 2 p.m.
The storm was expected to move across the Yucatan early Wednesday, then emerge over the Bay of Campeche by Wednesday afternoon or evening.
A hurricane warning was in effect for Chetumal to Tulum on the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula and the coast of Belize from Belize City north to the Mexican border.
A hurricane watch was in effect for Barra de Nautla to Punta el Lagarto on the Mexican coast.
A tropical storm warning was in effect for the coast of Belize from Belize City south to the Guatemalan border, for the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula from north of Tulum to Cabo Catoche, and from Celestun southward and westward to Chilitepec along the Gulf Coast of Mexico.
Ernesto was expected to weaken as it moves over land. It was also expected to bring as much as 12 inches of rain to Belize, the Yucatan Peninsula and northern Guatemala. The rains were likely to cause dangerous flash floods and mud slides over higher terrain, according to the NHC.
A dangerous storm surge could raise water levels by as much as four feet above normal tide levels along the coast near and to the north of the center’s landfall on the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. A storm surge of one to three feet above normal tide levels was likely in areas of onshore winds in the warning area along the Gulf Coast of Mexico. Dangerous waves near the coast would accompany the surge, the National Hurricane Center said.