The first big storm of the hurricane season has left its mark on the Dominican Republic and Haiti. But other parts of the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico are breathing a little easier after Ernesto was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm. Authorities in Cuba and Florida are still bracing for extreme weather, however. Around 300,000 people have been evacuated from the east of the communist island while the US state ordered tourists out of the Keys area. Experts say although Ernesto has weakened it could regain hurricane status. Florida has been battered by eight hurricanes in the past two years. But predictions that Ernesto will miss New Orleans have brought relief to the city that suffered the most in the Katrina disaster.