(Reuters) - Tropical Storm Dorian was likely to strengthen into a hurricane during the next two days as it churned westward in the Caribbean Sea, putting Puerto Rico, the Lesser Antilles and the Virgin Islands on alert, forecasters said on Sunday.
The storm, 465 miles (750 km) east-southeast of Barbados, packed 40 mph winds as it headed west at 14 mph. It was forecast to be near the central Lesser Antilles late on Monday or early Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in a midday advisory on Sunday.
“Right now, it’s a tropical storm and we are expecting it to strengthen close to or reaching hurricane intensity as it approaches,” NHC meteorologist Michael Brennan told Reuters.
Dorian was expected to turn toward the west-northwest on Monday and continue on that path through Tuesday night, the NHC said.
As of Sunday afternoon, Barbados was under a tropical storm warning while a tropical storm watch was in effect for St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The NHC was likely to issue additional watches for portions of the Windward and Leeward Islands on Sunday, Brennan said, noting that Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Hispaniola should monitor Dorian’s progress.
“We are approaching the peak of the hurricane season so everybody in the Caribbean and along the U.S. South, Gulf and East Coast needs to be aware and follow these systems,” Brennan said.
Dorian’s winds could weaken as it passes south of Puerto Rico and approaches Hispaniola.
Many Caribbean islands are likely to receive 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 cm) of rain, but some part of the Lesser Antilles islands could get 6 inches, the NHC said.
Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Chicago; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall and Daniel Wallis