Hurricane warnings have been issued for parts of Cuba, the Bahamas and the U.S. state of Florida as Tropical Storm Rita moves in from the Atlantic.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Rita - the 17th tropical storm of this year's Atlantic hurricane season - is gaining strength and could become a hurricane late Monday.

At last report, Rita was 315 kilometers southeast of Nassau in the Bahamas. The storm was heading west with sustained winds near 100 kilometers an hour.

Florida officials have ordered everyone to leave the lower part of the Florida Keys, a string of islands off the state's southern coast.

The hurricane warnings cover southern Florida, two western Cuban provinces (Villa Clara and Matanzas) and the Exumas and Andros Island in the Bahamas. Other warnings and watches are in place throughout the region.

Hurricane Philippe continues to churn in the Atlantic but poses no immediate threat to land.