Tropical Storm Chantal is rapidly approaching the Lesser Antilles, but forecasters are still unsure if the system will move into Florida during the upcoming weekend.
The storm is rolling west at 25 miles per hour and is expected to hit the Lesser Antilles early Tuesday, according to the National Hurricane Center. It was located 470 miles east of Barbados early Monday afternoon.
Tropical storm warnings are in effect for Barbados, Dominica, Saint Lucia, Martinique, and Guadeloupe, and watches are in effect for Puerto Rico and Saint Vincent.
Wind speeds are approximately 45 miles per hour with stronger gusts, and the storm is expected to dump up to 6 inches of rain on some areas.
Bay News 9 meteorologist Juli Marquez said it is still too early to predict if Tropical Storm Chantal will maintain its strength as it moves north through the Caribbean toward the United States.
"Late in the week when it makes that approach to the Bahamas, that's the part we're going to have to watch closely," Marquez said.
The storm could cut over the island of Hispaniola and weaken significantly, Marquez said. If it remains a tropical storm, she said, early models show it heading toward the east coast of Florida.
Several factors will probably prevent the storm from strengthening into a hurricane, said Dennis Feltgen, spokesman for the National Hurricane Center. It is moving too fast, he said, and strong westerly winds will prohibit its development.
The tropical storm will also weaken when it strikes land in the Caribbean, Feltgen said.
"There's a lot of strikes against this, and that's very good news," he said.