Storm expected to lash eastern Caribbean late Thursday at near-hurricane strength
Tropical Storm Bret grew stronger on Wednesday as it took aim at islands in the eastern Caribbean that braced for torrential rainfall, landslides and flooding.
Bret had maximum sustained winds of 100 km/h late Wednesday afternoon and was moving westward across the Atlantic Ocean at 24 km/h, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
The storm was located some 605 kilometres east of Barbados and is expected to grow stronger before lashing several eastern Caribbean islands late Thursday at near-hurricane strength.
A tropical storm warning was issued for St. Lucia and the French Caribbean island of Martinique as officials in the region urged people to prepare for Bret.
A tropical storm watch was in effect for Barbados and Dominica.
"We all know the uncertainty with forecasting intensity, movement and impact of weather systems," said Fitzroy Pascal at Dominica's office of disaster management.
A special aircraft dispatched to investigate the storm on Wednesday found that Bret had grown a bit bigger, with tropical-storm-force winds extending outward up to 165 kilometres from its centre, according to forecasters. Officials said it was too soon to know where Bret's centre would pass through, but they warned that up to 25 centimetres of rain were forecast from the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe south to Grenada and Barbados.
The government of Guadeloupe warned that inclement weather would start Thursday morning and continue until late Friday, with waves of up to 3.5 meters.
Officials issue warning to locals
"Be careful!" officials warned in a statement.
Antigua-based regional airline LIAT and interCaribbean Airways said the storm would disrupt several of its flights scheduled for Thursday and Friday.
Bret is expected to weaken after it enters the eastern Caribbean Sea and is forecast to dissipate by Saturday.
Hurricane season expected to be average with stronger storms
After a few years of heightened risk, Environment and Climate Change Canada predicts an average number of hurricanes this year. But there is a risk of potentially stronger storms.
The storm formed Monday — an unusually early and aggressive start to the Atlantic hurricane season that began on June 1. A tropical disturbance with an 80 per cent chance of cyclone formation is trailing Bret.
No June on record has had two storms form in the tropical Atlantic, according to meteorologist Philip Klotzbach at Colorado State University.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has forecast 12 to 17 named storms for this year's hurricane season. It said between five and nine of those storms could become hurricanes, including up to four major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher.
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