Katrina was not severely weakened when it entered the Gulf... in fact, it was a very healthy system as it emerged since it was intensifying pretty rapidly before landfall in Florida and did not spend a great deal of time over the peninsula. It was nearly as strong when it entered the Gulf as it was when it hit Florida.
If Ernesto is a strong tropical storm or weak hurricane when it enters the Gulf, it will be a threat to rapidly intensify. However, if it severely damaged over Cuba and is only a weak system entering the Gulf, it likely won't have enough time to become a strong hurricane.
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