Here's the latest update from the National Hurricane Center on Tropical Storm Floyd, which is now moving through the northeastern Caribbean on a west-northwest course at about 15 mph.
At 5 p.m. Thursday, a tropical storm watch was issued by the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla and Dutch Sint Martin. At 6 p.m. a similar watch was announced by the government of France for French St. Martin and St. Barth's.
The storm, which has gained strength and is expected to reach hurricane status on Friday, turned from a west-northwest movement early Thursday to a westerly track at midday, but returned to the projected west-northwesterly path in the afternoon.
As of 5 p.m., Floyd was centered a little over 400 miles almost due east of St. Thomas at 18.2 degrees north latitude and 56.9 degrees west longitude.
Local coordinates are 18.3 degrees north and 65.0 degrees west for St. Thomas, and 17.7 degrees north and 64.8 degrees west for St. Croix. A degree equals 60 nautical miles, or a little more than 69 land miles.
The most recent projections call for the storm to pass some 145 miles north of the Virgin Islands over the weekend, bringing rain and rough seas locally and possible tailwinds of 40 to 45 mph.
With the issuance of the tropical storm watches, the National Hurricane Center is initiating its usual procedure of issuing more frequent updates on the status of the storm. Advisories have been six hours apart, at 5 a.m., 11 a.m., 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. Intermediate updates will now be issued midway between those intervals, with the first one scheduled for 8 p.m. Thursday.
The storm underwent significant strengthening during the day Thursday, as it had been projected to do. Its maximum sustained winds increased to about 70 mph as of 5 p.m. from 60 mph earlier in the day. It also continued to broaden, with tropical storm-force winds extending outward up to 175 miles from the center as of 5 p.m. — an increase from 115 miles 12 hours earlier.
Weather analysts said early Thursday that a low-level trough approaching the U.S. mainland East Coast could impact on Floyd's course but that it might not be sufficient to redirect the storm.
Gene Walker, executive director of the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency, said local residents should be "tightening the screws" in terms of finalizing routine hurricane season preparations for the passage of Floyd over the weekend.
This, he said, should include making sure the household emergency kit contains a three-day supply of drinking water, food and medications and a radio with extra batteries.
As for VITEMA itself, "We are ready," Walker told Radio One News. The telephone numbers to call the agency for further information are 774-2244 on St. Thomas, 773-2244 on St. Croix and 693-5050 on St. John (not 776-6444, the number given in telephone books).