Could Ernesto turn into a Katrina?

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The Independent US

The fifth tropical storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, Ernesto, could turn into a powerful hurricane once it hits the Gulf of Mexico later this week, weather forecasters have predicted.

As it passes over the warm waters of the Gulf, there is a fear that it could strengthen and become destructive, the US Nat- ional Hurricane Center said. If this occurred, the hurricane would coincide with the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

Jamaica and the Cayman Islands yesterday issued hurricane warnings as Ernesto approached. The storm is expected to produce winds of up to 74mph as it passes the islands. If it does become a hurricane, it will be the first of the six-month season, which begins officially on 1 June.

Ernesto's forecast track could take it over the western tip of Cuba by Tuesday. By Thursday it is projected to be swirling in the Gulf as a category 3 hurricane - as was Hurricane Katrina when it came ashore last August.

Ernesto's likely path ranges anywhere from the Florida Panhandle through New Orleans and down to the border with Mexico, but the northern Gulf Coast appears most likely.