Tropical Storm Bret bore down on the eastern Caribbean on Thursday night as islands shut down and braced for torrential downpours, landslides, and flooding.
A hurricane watch was issued for St. Lucia and local forecasters warned of a potential direct hit.
The storm was centered about 55 miles (90 kilometers) southeast of St. Lucia on Thursday night and moving westward at 16 mph (26 kph). It had maximum sustained winds of 65 mph (100 kph), below the 74 mph (119 kph) threshold for a Category 1 hurricane.
Airports, businesses, schools, and offices closed on St. Lucia, Dominica, Martinique, and other islands by midday.
The Caribbean is also closely watching a tropical storm trailing Bret. The tropical depression was upgraded to a Tropical Storm Cindy late Thursday night and is forecasted to curve north of Puerto Rico early next week.
It is the first time since record-keeping began that two storms formed in the tropical Atlantic in June, meteorologist Philip Klotzbach at Colorado State University said.
"Protect your lives, property, and livelihoods," urged St. Lucia Prime Minister Philip Pierre.
Residents across the island filled up their cars with gasoline and stocked up on water and canned food, hoping the storm wouldn't cause too much damage.
"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.
Andre Joyeux, director of St. Lucia's Meteorological Services, said Bret was expected to cut directly over the island.
"So we are hoping that persons take heed," he said.
A tropical storm warning was in effect for Barbados, Dominica, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Up to 10 inches (3 centimeters) of rain is forecast for the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe south to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, including Barbados, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said. Waves of up to 13 feet (4 meters) also were forecast for Guadeloupe, according to local meteorologists.
Ralph Gonsalves, prime minister for St. Vincent and the Grenadines, 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.
Bret was expected to lose strength after entering the eastern Caribbean Sea and was forecast to dissipate by the weekend.
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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