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Ernesto shifts east toward Carolinas

Hurricane forecasters have shifted their predictions for Tropical Storm Ernesto's future farther to the east. Instead of crossing Cuba and charging into the Gulf of Mexico, the center of the current predicted storm tracks leads up the Florida peninsula, off the Georgia coast and on toward Cape Hatteras by Saturday. Here's the current track forecast.  Here's AccuWeather's take on the storm.

The shift away from the Gulf and its oil rigs has already reduced oil prices and given a boost to the stock market.

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This is also a positive forecast for Maryland. Tropical storms that veer offshore from the Outer Banks, as this one, for now, is expected to do, do not pose wind or storm surge worries for the Delmarva beaches or the Chesapeake. It's the storms that come ashore in the Carolinas, and charge up the western shore of the bay that we worry most about.

The new track will also spare the northern Gulf Coast, which is still recovering from last year's storms. And it will avert the potential strengthening of the storm over the warm Gulf waters.

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But it will mean a tough week for Florida, where many residents  - those who haven't already cashed out and found new homes elsewhere - are still recovering from the four storms of 2004, and others last year.

The storm is currently making landfall in eastern Cuba. Tropical storm warnings are already up there, and hurricane watches are posted for parts of Florida and the Bahamas.

Here is the latest advisory on Ernesto. And there is the view from orbit. Here's another shot of the storm as it approached Haiti over the weekend.

And finally, in the event that you have not yet been sufficiently inundated by year-after Katrina information, here's NASA's retrospective on the worst hurricane ever to strike the U.S.

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