Tropical Storm Ernesto heading nearer to Barbados

As of 8 a.m. Thursday, the probability for tropical storm wind speeds from Tropical Depression 5 predicted over the next five-day period.

NOAA

As of 8 a.m. Thursday, the probability for tropical storm wind speeds from Tropical Depression 5 predicted over the next five-day period.

The location and projected path of Tropical Depression 5 as of 2 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012.

The location and projected path of Tropical Depression 5 as of 2 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012.

MIAMI (AP) — Forecasters say Tropical Storm Ernesto is churning toward a string of popular vacation islands in the Caribbean Sea and expected to pass near Barbados during the night.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Thurdsay at 8 p.m. EDT that the storm was centered about 205 miles (330 kilometers) east of Barbados and headed west at about about 22 mph (35 kph). Tropical storm warnings are in effect for the islands of Barbados, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Martinique, Guadeloupe and the Grenadines.

The storm has maximum sustained winds of 50 mph (80 kph). Its general track takes it toward Jamaica and could affect Cuba.

Hurricane center meteorologist David Zelinsky says the storm is strengthening and could become a hurricane, but it's too soon to tell.

POSTED EARLIER

MIAMI — Forecasters say a tropical depression is speeding toward a chain of small, popular vacation islands in the Caribbean Sea.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Thursday the system formed in the Atlantic Ocean and is rapidly heading west toward the Caribbean. Tropical storm watches are in effect for the islands of Barbados, St. Vincent, Dominica, St. Lucia, Martinique and Guadeloupe.

As of 2 p.m. Thursday, Tropical Depression 5's maximum sustained winds are at 35 mph and the storm is moving to the west at 20 mph. The storm was located about 385 miles east of the Windward Islands.

Forecasters say the storm is expected to strengthen. Its general track takes it toward Jamaica, though forecasters warn that the path of a tropical system can be unpredictable.

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