TAMPA - 5 P.M. UPDATE: Tropical Storm Chantal is taking aim at the island of Hispaniola.
The latest update has the storm centered about 270 miles southeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Maximum sustained winds had reached 65 miles per hour as the system moved quickly to the west-northwest at 26 mph.
A Hurricane Watch is in effect for portions of the Dominican Republic. A Tropical Storm warning is in effect for Puerto Rico, the entire coast of Haiti, the southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Chantal was expected to pass more than 100 miles south of Puerto Rico early Wednesday.
Chantal could be near hurricane strength before it reaches Hispaniola, the island shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Both countries are very vulnerable to flooding and landslides from storms, but widespread deforestation and ramshackle housing in Haiti mean even moderate rains pose a significant threat.
National Hurricane Center forecasters expect that wind shear and interaction with the mountains of Hispaniola and Cuba will cause Chantal to start weakening several days from now and is expected to become a tropical depression Friday while over the Bahamas.
Current computer models have the storm passing well to the east of Florida this weekend.
The Tampa Bay area is just inside the 'cone of probability' model issued by the National Hurricane center.
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