SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - Tropical Storm Matthew expected to become a hurricane this weekend as it moves westward across the Caribbean Sea.
Matthew was located about 35 miles southeast of St. Lucia, moving to the west at 21 miles per hour, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm had a minimum pressure of 1008 millibars and maximum sustained winds of 60 miles per hour, making it a moderate tropical storm.
Tropical storm warnings were in effect on Wednesday for many of the islands in the Lesser Antilles. Heavy tropical rains and winds exceeding 39 miles per hour will affect areas in the Leeward and Windward islands this week, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands.
By this weekend, the storm is expected to reach hurricane strength and begin a turn to the north, heading toward Jamaica and eastern Cuba by early next week.
"We will be watching Matthew closely," said WLOX First Alert Meteorologist Wesley Williams. "While we are not expecting this storm to impact the Gulf Coast region at this time, we will not let our guards down until the storm makes the northward turn that it is forecast to make by this weekend and moves far enough away from the Gulf to not be considered a threat."
"By the way, if anyone looking at Matthew's forecast track is confused about its expected sharp northward turn, this sort of thing is not unprecedented," Williams continued. "It happened before back in 1954 when Hurricane Hazel also made a sharp northward turn in the Caribbean Sea."
Continue to monitor the latest on the tropics.
Be sure to update your WLOX Weather App and to check it often for weather messages sent directly from the WLOX First Alert Weather Team.