BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, CMC – A strengthening Tropical Storm Chris has skirted the northernmost Leeward Islands, but hurricane warnings have been issued for the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas.

The system\’s maximum sustained winds increased to near 65 mph – 100 km/hr – with higher gusts and Chris could become a hurricane later Wednesday, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported.

On Wednesday morning the tropical storm warning for St. Barthelemy, St.
Martin and St. Maarten was discontinued but the storm warning for Anguilla, Puerto Rico and the U S and British Virgin Islands remained in effect.

The NHC\’s 11 a.m. bulletin said Chris is moving toward the west-northwest near 10 mph – 17 km/hr – and this motion is expected to continue for the next 24 hours.

On this track the centre of Chris will remain north of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico Wednesday afternoon and evening. However, it warned that some of the strong rain bands on the south side of Chris may affect Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands later Wednesday and early Thursday morning.