Tropical Storm Chantal strengthened as it moved west across the Atlantic toward the Lesser Antilles, including the islands of Martinique and Saint Lucia, on a track that may take it east of Florida, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
Chantal was 550 miles (885 kilometers) east-southeast of Barbados with top winds of 45 miles per hour, up from 40 mph earlier, the center said in an advisory at 11 a.m. New York time. The storm is expected to grow to near hurricane strength in two days before weakening.
“The center of Chantal should reach Lesser Antilles early Tuesday and move into the eastern Caribbean Sea later on Tuesday,” the center said. “Interests elsewhere in the eastern Caribbean should monitor the progress of Chantal.”
Chantal is the third named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30. These powerful systems can disrupt oil and natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico and threaten orange crops in Florida, the second- largest producer behind Brazil.
In addition, 4.2 million homes with an estimated $1.1 trillion in property exposure are within storm-surge risk zones along the U.S. Gulf and Atlantic coasts, according to CoreLogic Inc. in Irvine, California, a property analysis firm.
Topical storm warnings have been issued for Martinique, Saint Lucia, Barbados, Dominica and Guadeloupe and a tropical storm watch for Saint Vincent and Puerto Rico, the hurricane center said.
A storm warning means high winds, rain and waves will probably hit within 24 to 36 hours. A watch means those conditions are possible.
Tropical storm-strength winds of at least 39 mph reach out 60 miles from Chantal’s center. The storm is expected to drop 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 centimeters) of rain on the islands, with some areas receiving as much as 6 inches.
The hurricane center’s five-day forecast track shows the storm losing strength as it threatens the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba and the Bahamas and moving into the Atlantic east of Florida.
Chantal’s top winds may reach 70 mph, just under the 74 mph threshold needed to be classified a hurricane, according to the center. The mountains of Hispaniola and eastern Cuba will probably tear at its structure, and the storm is expected to encounter wind shear that may also weaken it.
In the Pacific, Tropical Storm Erick weakened to 45 mph from 50 mph earlier on a path along the western coast of Baja California in Mexico, according to the center.
A tropical storm warning was issued for Baja California Sur from Santa Fe to La Paz. Storm-strength winds of at least 39 mph are expected to start raking the peninsula within the next few hours. Erick may drop 1 to 3 inches of rain and create life- threatening surf along the coast.
Editors: Charlotte Porter, Richard Stubbe