A tropical wave racing toward the Caribbean and expected to spin into a potentially dangerous storm will likely reach the Windward Islands by Wednesday.
At 2 p.m. Tuesday, National Hurricane Center forecasters said the system was located about 350 miles east, southeast of Barbados and continuing to show signs of strengthening. Wind speeds recorded by buoys near the storm nearly reached tropical storm force. The storm was moving west-northwestward at 15 to 20 mph.
While no advisory was issued, forecasters said residents in the islands, including the Leeward Islands, along with the north coast of South America, should start watching the storm.
Mild wind shear and very warm ocean water — temperatures hovered around 85 degrees — are expected to add muscle to the system, with some models predicting a quick intensification.
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If the storm strengthens quickly, that could spell trouble for flood-prone countries, including Haiti which has suffered devastating mudslides. In recent weeks, heavy rain has left the ground saturated.
A hurricane hunter plane was flying over the storm Tuesday afternoon to try to determine whether the system had a closed loop.
Computer models largely agree on the storm’s track over the next few days, showing the storm pushing over the southern end of the islands and threading the needle between the coast of South America and Hispaniola. However, several turn the storm north across Haiti after four days.
If the system becomes a named storm, it would be the 13th this year as the season approaches a month that has historically produced some of the basin’s fiercest storms.
Follow Jenny Staletovich on Twitter @jenstaletovich