Tropical Storm Bret swirls near St. Vincent as it enters eastern Caribbean
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Tropical Storm Bret swirled close to St. Vincent late Thursday as it began pushing into the eastern Caribbean, where islands were shut down to brace for torrential downpours, landslides and flooding.
The storm’s center was about 5 miles (10 kilometers) east of St. Vincent just before midnight and moving westward at 18 mph (30 kph). Its maximum sustained winds had weakened a bit to 60 mph (95 kph).
Airports, businesses, schools and offices closed on St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Dominica, Martinique and other islands by midday.
Ralph Gonsalves, prime minister for St. Vincent and the Grenadines, had urged people to go to a government shelter if they believed their home might not withstand the strong winds and heavy rains.
“These storms can turn around fairly quickly,” he warned.
Earlier in the day, forecasters had warned that the storm might pass directly over St. Lucia, an island north of St. Vincent, but its path shifted to the south during the night.
“Protect your lives, property and livelihoods,” urged Prime Minister Philip Pierre on St. Lucia.
Residents across St. Lucia rushed to fill up their cars with gasoline and stock up on water and canned food.
“You always have to be ready,” Ben Marcellin, who manages a guesthouse, said in a phone interview. “You never know. It can become serious.”
Authorities in St. Lucia opened one shelter at the request of some residents who feared their homes would not withstand the storm.
A tropical storm warning was in effect for Barbados, Dominica, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Rainfall of 3 to 6 inches (8 to 15 centimeters) was forecast from the French island of Guadeloupe south to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, including Barbados, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said. Dangerous surf was also a possibility, the center warned.
Bret was expected to lose strength after entering the eastern Caribbean Sea and was forecast to dissipate by Sunday.
The Caribbean was also closely watching Tropical Storm Cindy trailing Bret, though forecasts called for that storm to take a path northeast of the Caribbean over open waters.
Two storms had never formed in the tropical Atlantic during June previously, meteorologist Philip Klotzbach at Colorado State University said.
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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