BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, CMC – An air force reserve hurricane hunter aircraft has found Tropical Storm Ernesto to be stronger than previous satellite images suggested, the National Hurricane Centre has reported.

It its latest advisory the Miami-based Centre said the system\’s maximum sustained winds had now increased to nearly 60 miles per hour and could be near hurricane strength as it approached Jamaica and western Haiti on Sunday.

At 5 p.m. the government of Cuba issued a hurricane watch for the provinces of Las Tunas, Granma, Holguin, Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo in Eastern Cuba, indicating that hurricane conditions are possible within 36 hours.

The NHC said a tropical storm warning is recommended for the south coast of the Dominican Republic from Barahona to the Dominican Republic-Haiti border as tropical storm conditions are expected within the warning area within the next 24 hours.

A tropical storm warning and a hurricane watch remain in effect for Jamaica and a hurricane watch for the Cayman Islands.

A tropical storm warning remains in effect for the south coast of Haiti from the Haiti-Dominican Republic border westward to the southwestern tip of Haiti.

The NHC said interests elsewhere in the northwestern Caribbean Sea, Cuba, the northeastern Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, the Florida Keys and the southeastern Gulf of Mexico should monitor the progress of Ernesto.

At 500 p.m., the centre of Ernesto was re-located near latitude 15.9 north…longitude 71.6 west or about 190 miles (310 km) south-southeast of Port au Prince, Haiti and about 375 miles (.600 km) east-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica.

Ernesto is moving toward the west-northwest near 13 mph (20 km/hr) and this general motion is expected to continue for the next 24 hours, bringing the centre near the south coast of Hispaniola Saturday night and near Jamaica on Sunday.