ROSEAU, Dominica (AP) — Tropical Storm Chantal raced across small islands in the eastern Caribbean on Tuesday as officials issued a hurricane watch for the southern coast of the Dominican Republic.
The storm was centered about 335 miles (540 kilometers) southeast of Puerto Rico around 2 p.m. EDT Tuesday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said. The storm had maximum sustained winds of 65 mph (100 kph), and was moving west-northwest at 29 mph (46 kph).
Officials in Dominica reported that heavy winds ripped off the roofs of several homes. But no injuries were reported in Dominica, or anywhere else in the region.
"It's getting rough out there," said Conrad Ceasar, an emergency management official for Dominica's southern region. "Some parts of the island are without electricity."
The government cancelled the country's ferry service and closed airports, and National Security Minister Charles Savarin said government offices would close at noon. "Chantal is a serious storm," he said.
Chantal was expected to move away from the Lesser Antilles late Tuesday and be near or over the Dominican Republic on Wednesday, according to the Hurricane Center.
Chantal could be near hurricane strength before it reaches Hispaniola, the island shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Both countries are vulnerable to flooding and landslides from storms, but widespread deforestation and ramshackle housing in Haiti mean even moderate rains pose a significant threat.
In St. Lucia, Prime Minister Kenny Anthony issued the "all clear" for the reopening of the tourism-dependent island's two airports as Chantal moved over the open Caribbean Sea.
He urged residents not to venture outside amid reports of fallen power lines in some areas. There were no immediate reports of major damage as authorities began to tour the island to gauge the storm's impact.
"We have been spared the potential wrath of a very serious storm," he said Tuesday.
Director of Meteorological Services Thomas Auguste warned St. Lucia would get hit by rain and wind gusts over the rest of the day.
A tropical storm warning was in effect for Dominica, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico and the entire coast of the Dominican Republic and the north coast of Haiti.
A tropical storm watch was in effect for Haiti, the Turks and Caicos, the southeastern Bahamas, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Vieques and Culebra.
In Barbados, officials urged people to stay indoors and tune to radio stations to prepare for Chantal, the Atlantic hurricane season's third named storm.
In Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the U.S. Coast Guard urged all waterfront facilities to remove unsecured debris, hazardous material and pollutants from dockside areas. Pleasure craft operators were advised to seek safe harbor and secure their vessels.
Both U.S. territories have already experienced heavy rainfall since June, nearly double the average for that period, according to AccuWeather meteorologists.
The storm was expected to produce rain and strong winds in Puerto Rico, with gusts of up to 60 mph (96 kph) in southern and mountainous areas, according to Roberto Garcia, director of the National Weather Service on the island of 3.7 million inhabitants. Chantal was expected to pass more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of Puerto Rico early Wednesday.
Municipalities along Puerto Rico's southern and southwest regions will shutter government offices at noon on Tuesday, according to the island's emergency management agency. Authorities also closed the popular El Yunque rain forest near the northeast coast until further notice.
Associated Press writers Guy Ellis in Castries, St. Lucia; Danica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico; and David McFadden in Kingston, Jamaica contributed to this report.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.