5PM UPDATE:There actually isn't a whole lot more to add. Ernesto was indeed downgraded to a 50 kt tropical storm (a generous drop according to NHC). The reason for the weakening is simple: the Haitian mountains have been tearing Ernesto apart this afternoon. One thing of note. The forecasting models have been consistently taking the storm a little further to the east at each successive run. I am not entirely convinced that Miami is out of the woods here. If the current NHC forecast track is correct, Ernesto will be skirting the lower Florida gulf coast affecting everywhere from Key West northward to Tampa. I'll be quite interested to see what the models do with Ernesto tonight.
I just got done looking at the hurricane hunter aircraft reconnaisance and I was quite surprised. The highest flight level wind speed found by the hurricane hunters was 42 kt which translates to a surface wind speed of about 35 kt or 40 mph. While I don't think NHC will move it down that low at the 5PM advisory, I do think that we could see Ernesto downgraded to a 50 kt tropical storm. The center of circulation has again reformed to the north and east, under the flare up of new convection depicted by the red in Figure 1. I'll have a bigger update after the NHC advisory. Stay tuned to the StormTrack for more.