CHARLOTTE AMALIE, U.S. Virgin Islands (October 14, 2012)--Tropical Storm Rafael has moved north of the Virgin Islands while dumping heavy rains around the eastern Caribbean and was centered about 105 miles northeast of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands early Sunday.
Rafael had top sustained winds of 50 miles per hour and was moving northward at 14 miles per hour.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said the storm was expected to gain some strength and could become a hurricane by late Monday.
Forecasters said the storm was on a northward trek and was expected to turn toward the north-northwest on Sunday as it moved away from the Virgin Islands.
As a result of the storm, Cape Air and regional carrier LIAT cancelled flights Saturday that had been scheduled to leave from Puerto Rico's main international airport.
The Carnival Victory cruise ship also cancelled a stop in St. Maarten on Saturday.
Flooding was reported in the eastern Caribbean island of Trinidad, where the storm caused a brief power outage at the island's main international airport late Friday.
At least one flight was cancelled.
The hurricane center said the storm's squalls and heavy rains were affecting much of the Northern Leeward Islands early Sunday.
A tropical storm warning remained in effect for the U.S. Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Culebra and Vieques, Anguilla, Barbuda, St. Kitts, Nevis, Antigua, Montserrat, Saba and St. Maartin, among other places.
Puerto Rico was under a tropical storm watch and the Miami center said Bermuda's population should monitor Rafael's course.
Forecasters also said Rafael could dump rainfall between 3 and 5 inches on some islands and possibly up to 10 inches in isolated spots over the lesser Antilles and the Virgin Islands.
Those heavy rains could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides, particularly in mountainous terrain, the Miami center said.
Dangerous surf also was expected around some areas of the eastern Caribbean during the day.
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