August 1, 2006

Tropical storm strengthens near Caribbean islands

MIAMI (Reuters) - Tropical Storm Chris, the third of the
hurricane season, formed on Tuesday in the Atlantic Ocean east
of the Leeward Islands, prompting storm alerts for some of the
small northeastern Caribbean islands and Puerto Rico.

Chris, with maximum sustained winds of about 60 mph (97
kph), was about 55 miles northeast of Antigua at 5 p.m. EDT
(2100 GMT), the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

The hurricane center said the storm, which had strengthened
significantly during the day, was expected to pass over or near
the northernmost Leeward Islands Tuesday night and early

It was moving to the west-northwest at about 10 mph (17
kph) on a path that would take it north of Puerto Rico and the
island of Hispaniola, shared by Haiti and the Dominican

It would reach the central Bahamas by Sunday, headed toward
the southeast Florida coast, forecasters said.

A tropical storm warning, telling residents to expect storm
conditions within 24 hours, was issued for Antigua and Barbuda,
St. Kitts and Nevis, Anguilla, Saba, St. Eustatius, St.
Barthelemy, St. Martin, Puerto Rico and the U.S. and British
Virgin Islands.

The second storm of the season, Tropical Storm Beryl,
skirted the North Carolina coast and blew over Nantucket Island
and other northeastern tourist playgrounds in July.

The first storm of what is expected to be a busy June to
November hurricane season was Alberto, which moved ashore
harmlessly in the Florida Panhandle in mid-June.

Forecasters have predicted up to 17 tropical storms and
hurricanes this year. Last year saw a record 28, including
Hurricane Katrina, the costliest natural disaster in U.S.
history. It devastated New Orleans and other parts of the Gulf
Coast and killed more than 1,300 people.