Tropical Storm Bret moves toward eastern Caribbean islands
By Judson Jones and Johnny Díaz
Tropical Storm Bret was expected to hit the Lesser Antilles on Thursday evening with strong winds and heavy rain of up to 10 inches in some locations, the National Hurricane Center said.
Bret formed Monday as the second named storm of the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season, and by Thursday afternoon, it was about 45 miles east of Barbados, moving west at 14 mph toward the eastern and central Caribbean Sea. Bret was expected to bring strong winds and heavy rainfall to portions of the Lesser Antilles on Thursday evening into Thursday night, the hurricane center said.
The storm’s maximum sustained winds were near 65 mph with higher gusts. Tropical storm-force winds extended outward up to 115 miles from Bret’s center.
The storm, which had initially been forecast to become the first hurricane of the 2023 Atlantic season, is expected to be near hurricane strength when it blows into some eastern Caribbean islands Thursday evening.
A tropical storm warning was in effect for Barbados, Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Martinique, the center said, while St. Lucia was under a hurricane watch. The storm is forecast to reach portions of the Lesser Antilles on Thursday afternoon and evening and then begin weakening in the eastern Caribbean Sea, where it will likely dissipate Saturday.
The storm may bring the risk of flooding from heavy rainfall, strong winds and dangerous waves, the center said. Forecasters urged anyone in the Lesser Antilles, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to closely monitor the storm and be prepared.
The government of St. Lucia closed schools, airports, businesses and government offices Thursday, Philip J. Pierre, the prime minister, said on Twitter.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit of Dominica shared disaster preparedness tips, urging residents to stay alert during heavy rainfall and to “be ready to move to a safe area if rising water is observed.”
The Barbados Meteorological Services also warned residents of possible flash flooding in low-lying districts. On Thursday afternoon, the acting prime minister of Barbados, Santia Bradshaw, said there were reports of heavy gusts across the island, which had damaged one home.
Schools and nonessential government services were closed Thursday in Barbados, and Bradshaw asked that people stay off the roads after 6 p.m.
The storm’s track is uncertain, though, and it is unclear which islands could receive the worst impact.
Rain is expected through Saturday. About 3 to 6 inches with maximum amounts up to 10 inches are anticipated across parts of the Lesser Antilles, extending from Guadeloupe as far south as St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Another storm system similar to Bret is following on its heels and may develop into Cindy, the season’s third named storm, later this week. Tropical storms earn a name once they have sustained winds of 39 mph. Once winds reach 74 mph, a storm becomes a hurricane, and at 111 mph it becomes a major hurricane.