Tropical Storm Bret is moving into the eastern Caribbean as the region braced for an unusually early storm and the torrential downpours it could bring.
Bret had maximum sustained winds of 50 miles per hour (85 kilometers per hour) Tuesday night and was moving across the Atlantic Ocean at 17 mph (28 km/h), according to the United States National Hurricane Center (NHC for its acronym in English).
However, the NHC admitted that it could not “have better data on the intensity and size” of the storm.
The storm was located about 730 miles (1,170 kilometers) east of the Windward Islands and is expected to hit some eastern Caribbean islands with near-hurricane force on Thursday.
A storm watch was issued for Barbados, St. Lucia and Dominica, where the weather service said the storm poses an “elevated threat” to the island and warned of possible landslides, flooding and waves of up to 4 meters (12 feet).
“Landslides are very likely as we are coming out of a relatively dry period where soils may be compromised or cracked,” said Fitzroy Pascal of the Dominica Office of Disaster Management.
Meanwhile, the NHC urged people in the Lesser Antilles, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to keep a close eye on the storm and have contingency plans in place.
“Given the uncertainty in the hurricane intensity and location forecasts, it is too early to specify the location and magnitude of the hazards associated with Bret,” he said.
Up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rain is forecast from the island of Guadalupe to Saint Lucia, and up to 4 inches (10 centimeters) between Barbados and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
The Guadeloupe government warned that bad weather would begin Wednesday night and continue through Friday, with waves of up to 3 meters (10 feet).
Headwinds and drier air are expected to weaken Bret later as it moves across the central Caribbean. Some models show that the storm could dissipate after affecting the eastern Caribbean islands.
The storm formed on Monday, kicking off the Atlantic hurricane season, which began June 1. Following Bret is a tropical disturbance with an 80% chance of becoming a cyclone. Never before has two storms formed in the tropical Atlantic in the same month of June, according to Colorado State University meteorologist Philip Klotzbach.
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has forecast that there will be between 12 and 17 named storms this year. He estimates that between five and nine of those storms could become hurricanes, of which there could be as many as four Category 3 or higher.
Stephanie Zick, a Virginia Tech meteorologist, predicted an unusually high number of intense storms this year due to higher sea surface temperatures. She noted that flooding from storms making landfall has caused high numbers of deaths in the past 10 years.
“Hazards associated with tropical storms can occur hundreds of miles from the center of the storm,” he explained.