Tropical Storm Erika spun close to Antigua and Guadeloupe on Wednesday, whipping up rough seas that prompted officials to warn fishermen to dock their boats.
A tropical storm warning was in effect for Antigua and Barbuda, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, Anguilla and islands of the Netherlands Antilles and French Caribbean territories, meaning tropical storm-force winds could hit over the next 24 hours.
In Antigua's capital, St. John's, schools and businesses remained open as the storm approached the island and neighboring Guadeloupe. Some islanders bought batteries, water and other survival staples as skies darkened and white-crested waves smacked seawalls.
Government meteorologist George Brathwaite said there was no need for most Antiguans to batten down, but minor flooding was possible in low-lying areas.
"I'm not worried at all because the weatherman say we don't have to batten down," said 67-year-old Leroy Joseph. "Once they say 'batten down,' then you know we are in for something."
People in the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe monitored the storm's progress by radio as some recalled the damage that Hurricane Iris inflicted in 2001.
Erika was expected to give Guadeloupe a glancing blow Thursday, but the storm has only moderate-strength winds, said Roland Mazurie with Meteo France.
"This system is taking a breather and sometimes surprising us," he said.
Forecasters at the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said the eye of the disorganized storm would pass over the Leeward Islands late Wednesday or early Thursday.
Erika was 320 miles east-southeast of San Juan Puerto Rico on Wednesday afternoon. It had winds of 40 mph and was moving westward at about 10 mph. It was expected to take a west-northwest track late Thursday.
Regional airline LIAT canceled 11 flights Wednesday and warned that more cancellations would be announced Thursday.
A tropical storm watch was issued for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and marinas and waterfront businesses were told to pick up debris that high winds could turn into dangerous projectiles.
Tropical storm force winds extended up to 205 miles mostly eastward from the center of Erika, which forecasters said could dump as much as 4 inches of rain over the northern Leeward Islands during the next couple of days. Up to 5 inches of rain were expected in Puerto Rico.
Forecasters said Erika could weaken to a tropical depression in the next couple of days.
Erika, the fifth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, has weakened since it formed Tuesday.