MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Ernesto has finally entered the southern Bay of Campeche and is gaining strength, according to forecasters at the National Hurricane Center.

At 11 p.m. Tropical Storm Ernesto was about 15 miles north of Ciudad Del Carmen, Mexico.

Maximum sustained winds have increased to 65 mph, with higher guests, and the storm was moving to the west at 7 mph.

This general motion is expected to continue during the next 48 hours with some decrease in speed.

The storm will be near the Gulf Coast of Mexico in the Hurricane Watch area by late Thursday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Continued strengthening is forecast tonight as the center churns over the Bay of Campeche. However, rapid weakening will occur again late Thursday as Ernesto moves over southern Mexico’s mountainous terrain.

A Hurricane Watch is in effect for Barra De Nautla to Coatzacoalcos.

A Hurricane Warning has been issued for the Gulf Coast of Mexico from Veracruz eastward to Chilitepec.

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for north of Veracruz to Barra De Nautla.

Ernesto is expected to produce total rainfall accumulations of four to eight inches over the Mexican states of Tabasco and Veracruz. Another two to four inches of rain are predicted for northern Belize, northern Guatemala and the southern Yucatan Peninsula.

These rains may produce life threatening flash floods and mud slides over higher terrain areas.

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