Tropical storm heads for pass along Honduras coast

Tropical Storm Ernesto heads for pass along Honduras' coast then plunge into Mexico, Belize

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) -- Tropical Storm Ernesto's forward movement slowed Monday as it headed for an expected close pass along Honduras' northern coast after dropping heavy rains on Jamaica without causing serious problems.

On Sunday, the storm passed to the south of Jamaica, where authorities said rains fell over much of the island.

Ernesto hasn't made any direct hits on land since entering the Caribbean early Saturday, and the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Ernesto could bring rain to the coast of Honduras late Monday and Tuesday morning.

The storm is then expected to grow to near-hurricane force before moving ashore near the Belize-Mexico border early Wednesday and eventually passing into the southern Gulf of Mexico.

A tropical storm warning was issued for the coast of Honduras, from the border with Nicaragua westward to Punta Sal, including the Bay Islands. Mexico issued a hurricane watch for the eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula.

The U.S. hurricane center said Ernesto was centered about 135 miles (215 kilometers) east of Cabo Gracias a Dios on the Nicaragua-Honduras border late Monday afternoon. It had maximum sustained winds near 65 mph (100 kph) and was moving west-northwest at 12 mph (19 kph).

Far out in the Atlantic, Florence weakened to a tropical depression Monday with maximum sustained winds near 35 (55 kph). Additional weakening was forecast and the hurricane center was Florence was expected to degenerate within the next few days.

Florence was centered about 1,515 miles (2,440 kilometers) east of the Caribbean's northern Leeward Islands.

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