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Tropical Storm Ernesto heading nearer to Barbados

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August 2, 2012 08:25 PM EST | AP

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MIAMI — Forecasters say Tropical Storm Ernesto is churning toward a string of popular vacation islands in the Caribbean Sea and expected to pass near Barbados during the night.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Thurdsay at 8 p.m. EDT that the storm was centered about 205 miles (330 kilometers) east of Barbados and headed west at about about 22 mph (35 kph). Tropical storm warnings are in effect for the islands of Barbados, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Martinique, Guadeloupe and the Grenadines.

The storm has maximum sustained winds of 50 mph (80 kph). Its general track takes it toward Jamaica and could affect Cuba.

Hurricane center meteorologist David Zelinsky says the storm is strengthening and could become a hurricane, but it's too soon to tell.