MIAMI (AP) -- Ernesto, the season's first hurricane, has been downgraded to a tropical storm but is expected to regain strength later in the week as it moves into the Gulf of Mexico.
Its winds have weakened to 60 miles-an-hour as it lashes Haiti with heavy rain, bringing the possibility of devastating mudslides to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
Forecasters say it's still too early to predict a landfall along the U-S Gulf Coast but that there are no longer indications of a threat to the New Orleans region, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina a year ago Tuesday.
The entire Florida Keys are under a hurricane watch and forecasters expect advisories to be posted later for other parts of the state. Governor Jeb Bush today ordered visitors to leave the Keys as a precaution.
The National Hurricane Center looks for Ernesto to regain strength and possibly become a hurricane again before hitting the southeastern coast of Cuba tomorrow.
(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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