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Ernesto Dumps Heavy Rain on US Mid-Atlantic Coast

The storm called Ernesto, now just a tropical depression, is drenching the mid-Atlantic region of the United States.

The U.S. Hurricane Center says the storm's winds have been weakening since it came ashore late Thursday over the state of North Carolina just short of hurricane strength, with winds of 110 kilometers-per-hour. But the hurricane center warns there is still the threat of flash floods.

Ernesto became the first hurricane of the 2006 Atlantic storm season, killing two people as it passed over Haiti Sunday. But it began losing strength over Cuba.

U.S. hurricane forecasters Friday lowered expectations for the number of storms that will form in the Atlantic this season. Experts now predict five hurricanes this year, down from an earlier forecast of seven.

The bad weather caused by Ernesto along the U.S. east coast could affect millions of Americans with travel plans for the long Labor Day holiday weekend, which marks the unofficial end of the summer season.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.