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 late Thursday night that the storm was centered about 80 miles (129 kilometers) east of Barbados and headed west at 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. A tropical storm watch is in effect for Grenada.
The storm has maximum sustained winds of 50 mph (80 kph). It is expected to bring heavy rains to the Windward Islands on Friday and large waves to the warning area. Its general track takes it toward Jamaica and could affect Cuba.
Hurricane center meteorologist David Zelinsky said Thursday the storm was strengthening and could become a hurricane, but it's too soon to tell.