Satellite image of Ernesto as of 4:30 p.m. EDT (NOAA)

Tropical storm warnings are in effect for Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, St. Lucia, Martinique, and Guadelope. Gusty winds and several inches of rain are possible as Ernesto sweeps over these islands.

The storm is currently positioned 295 miles east of the Windward islands and is moving west at 22 mph.

Battling wind shear and dry air, the system looked as if it could fall apart this morning. But, despite a somewhat ragged satellite appearance, it has become marginally better organized today.

Conditions are forecast to allow slow intensification in the next couple of days. Once the storm makes some headway into the Caribbean, it’s not out of the question it could reach hurricane intensity by late in the weekend or early next week.

Track model forecasts for Ernesto (UCAR)

For its part, the U.S. is in a major hurricane drought. Climate Central’s Michael Lemonick reminded readers of this in his update on this system:

As of Thursday, the U.S. had not been struck by a major hurricane – Category 3 or above with sustained winds of 111 mph or greater -- in a record 2,475 days. The last major hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. was Hurricane Wilma in October 2005, which struck Southwest Florida.

There’s still plenty of time to watch this storm evolve. We’ll keep you updated on its progress.