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Tropical storm approaches U.S. Virgin Islands

Tropical Storm Rafael is lashing the eastern Caribbean with heavy rains that are expected to unleash floods in the region.
CHARLOTTE AMALIE, U.S. Virgin Islands (AP) - Tropical Storm Rafael is lashing the eastern Caribbean with heavy rains that are expected to unleash floods in the region.

The storm is about 165 miles (265 kilometers) south-southeast of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It has top sustained winds of 40 mph (65 kph) and is moving northwest 9 mph (15 kph).

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says the storm will gain some strength and will pass near or over the Virgin Islands late Saturday.

A tropical storm warning is in effect for the U.S. Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Barbuda, St. Kitts, Nevis, Antigua, Montserrat, St. Maartin, Guadeloupe and Martinique.

Puerto Rico is under a tropical storm watch.

Meanwhile, tropical depression Patty was about 280 miles (445 kilometers) east-northeast of the central Bahamas.
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