MIAMI, CMC – The Turks and Caicos Islands and the Bahamas were bracing for hurricane strength winds on Wednesday as the Tropical Storm Chris churned its way across the region.

The 5.p.m. weather bulletin issued by the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) said that a hurricane watch is in effect for the Turks and Caicos Islands as well as the southeastern Bahamas including the Acklins, Crooked Islands, the Inaganuas, Mayaguana and the Ragged Islands.

It said that a tropical storm warning remained in effect for Puerto Rico and both the United States and British Virgin Islands.

At 5.p.m, the center of Tropical Storm Cris was located near latitude 19.9 north, longitude 64.3 west or about 115 miles north-northeast of St. Thomas.

NHC said that Chris is moving towards the west-northwest near 10 miles per hour and this motion is expected to continue for the next 24 hours on this track.

\”The center of Chris will remain north of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. However, some of the strong rain bands on the south side of Chris may continue to affect Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands later tonight and early Thursday morning,\” NHC added.

It said the reports from an Air Force Reserve Unit hurricane hunter aircraft indicate that the maximum sustained winds are now nearing 60 miles per hour with higher gusts and some strengthening is possible during the next 24 hours.

NHC said that Chris is expected to produce total rainfall accumulation of two to four inches over the northern Leeward Islands, the US Virgin islands and portions of Puerto Rico \”with possible isolated maximum amounts of eight inches over higher terrain through Thursday\”.