November 01, 2009 2:06 AM
Tropical Storm Gustav is nearing Jamaica, drenching the Caribbean island with torrential rains and buffeting the region with near hurricane strength winds.
U.S. forecasters say Gustav could become a hurricane at any time, possibly before it passes over or near Jamaica Thursday and the Cayman Islands Friday night. At last report, the storm had winds of 110 kilometers per hour, just nine kilometers short of the hurricane threshold. Gustav was located about 65 kilometers east of Kingston, Jamaica and heading west.
A hurricane warning is in effect for Jamaica and a hurricane watch is in effect for the Cayman Islands.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Gustav may dump about a-half meter of rain in some areas.
The storm is expected to move into the Gulf of Mexico by early next week, possibly with winds of 180 kilometers or more.
Separately, Tropical Storm Hanna formed Thursday about 490 kilometers northeast of the Leeward Islands.
Hanna had winds of 65 kilometers per hour and was expected to move toward the Bahamas on Friday and Saturday.
Hanna is the eighth storm of the Atlantic hurricane season.
Earlier this week, Gustav drenched parts of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, triggering flooding and mudslides that killed at least 23 people.
The United Nations mission in Haiti says peacekeepers are evacuating thousands of people and helping police assess the damage to bridges and roads.