San Juan, Puerto Rico — A hurricane warning has been issued for St. Lucia as Tropical Storm Bret approached the eastern Caribbean on Thursday with near hurricane intensity.
The storm was about 45 miles (70 km) northeast of Barbados on Thursday afternoon and was moving west at 14 mph (22 km/h). It had maximum sustained winds of 65 mph (100 km/h), lower than the 74 mph (119 km/h) winds of a Category 1 hurricane.
Airports, businesses, schools and offices in St. Lucia, Dominica and Martinique were closed as forecasters warned of downpours, landslides and flooding.
“Protect your life, property and livelihood,” Prime Minister Philip Pierre urged St. Lucia.
Islanders filled their cars with gas, stocked up on water and canned food, hoping the storm wouldn’t cause too much damage.
“You always have to be ready,” Ben Marcellin, the manager of a guesthouse, said in a phone interview. “You never know. It could get serious.”
Tropical Storm Warning in effect for Barbados, Dominica, St. Lucia and Martinique, while tropical storm warnings were issued for St. Vincent and the Grenadines. According to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, the storm is expected to begin affecting islands in the eastern Caribbean late Thursday.
Andre Joyeux, director of the Meteorological Service of St. Lucia, said Bret is expected to cut directly across the island.
“So we hope people pay attention,” he said.
The storm center said it forecast up to 10 inches (3 cm) of rain for the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe south to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, including Barbados. According to local meteorologists, waves as high as 13 feet (4 meters) have also been forecast for Guadeloupe.
Bret is expected to lose strength as it enters the eastern Caribbean and is forecast to dissipate by the end of the week.
The Caribbean is also keeping a close eye on a tropical depression that is dragging Bret and has a 90% chance of forming. Initial projections suggested it would become Tropical Storm Cindy on Thursday and move north-east of the Caribbean through the open sea.
According to meteorologist Philip Klotzbach at Colorado State University, if the tropical depression strengthens into a hurricane, it will be the first time since the beginning of the record that two hurricanes form in the tropical Atlantic Ocean in June.
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 Category 3 or higher hurricanes.