Tropical Storm Rita formed over the southern Bahamas yesterday, threatening to lash the island-chain with strong rain and wind, forecasters said.
A hurricane watch was issued for southern and eastern parts of Cuba, the northwestern Bahamas and the Florida Keys, meaning hurricane conditions are possible for those areas in the next 36 hours, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said.
At 5 p.m. EDT, the 17th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season had sustained winds near 40 mph (60 km/hr), the National Hurricane Center said. It was moving west at 10 mph (17 km/hr) about 355 miles (570 kilometers) east-southeast of Nassau, the Bahamian capital. Basil Dean, the chief meteorologist in the Bahamas, said residents of the southeastern Bahamas should begin seeing tropical storm conditions by Sunday night, and said it "was very likely" the depression could become a hurricane sometime Monday. A tropical storm warning was issued for the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Florida peninsula, the center said. Rita is the 17th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, making this the fourth busiest season since record keeping began, according to the hurricane center. The hurricane season started June 1 and ends Nov. 30.