Caribbean depression threatens to become named tropical storm

Residents of the Cayman Islands braced for strong rain and gusty winds as a tropical depression churned south of the low-lying territory and threatened to become a named storm.

The slow-moving system was expected to become Tropical Storm Wilma, which would make it the 21st named storm of the season, tying the record for the most storms in an Atlantic season, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

At 11 p.m. EDT Sunday (0300 GMT Monday), the depression was centered about 155 miles (250 kilometers) southeast of Grand Cayman, forecasters said. It was moving west at about 2 mph (3 kph) and had sustained winds near 35 mph (56 kph). Depressions become tropical storms when their winds reach 39 mph (63 kph).

Long-term forecasts show the storm would likely move in a general westward direction for the next three days, then turn to the north. Such a scenario would put the storm in the Gulf of Mexico by later this week, and forecasters said water temperature and other conditions were favorable for it to become a significant hurricane.

"Folks there are at least getting some showers and some pretty gusty winds so if this thing does strengthen ... certainly there's a possibility for hurricane force winds in those areas," said Hugh Cobb, a forecaster at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Many residents in the Cayman Islands still had storm shutters up from last year's Hurricane Ivan, which destroyed 70 percent of buildings on Grand Cayman, the largest island in the three-island British territory of 45,000 people.

"I still have all the supplies from the previous storms this season, basically a lot of peanut M&M's, so I am ready just in case," 51-year-old resident Susan Craig said, reports the AP.


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