Tropical Storm Rita, the 17th named storm of the Atlantic season, brought strong winds and rain as it moved west and gathered strength. People in the southeastern Bahamas were expected to feel the most significant effects of the storm and were urged to take precautions. Forecasters warned that Rita could grow into a Category 1 hurricane by late Monday as it moved toward Cuba and southeastern tip of the United States.
Meanwhile, a storm system east of the Leeward Islands developed late Sunday into Hurricane Philippe, the eighth of the season, with maximum wind gusts of 75 mph. The storm did not pose an immediate threat to land, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.
Tropical Storm Rita dumped 3-5 inches (76-127 millimeters) of rain as it passed over the Turks and Caicos Islands on Sunday and was expected to bring nearly twice that amount to the southeast Bahamas, officials said.
A hurricane watch was issued for the northwest Bahamas, parts of Cuba and the Florida Keys, meaning hurricane conditions were possible for those areas in the next 36 hours, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
At 11 p.m. EDT, the storm had sustained winds near 50 mph (85 km/hr), the hurricane center said. It was moving northwest at 10 mph (16 km/hr) about 295 miles (475 kilometers) east-southeast of Nassau, the Bahamian capital. Tropical storm force winds extended outward up to 70 miles (112 kilometers).