SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Hurricane Earl lashed the northeastern Caribbean with heavy rain and strong winds Monday, causing flooding in parts of the low-lying Leeward Islands and emptying the streets and beaches as people waited out the storm.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Earl, which formed on Sunday, already had sustained winds of 110 mph (175 kph) and was likely to keep growing.
"It is possible that Earl could become a Category 4 hurricane as we get into the middle to late portions of the week," hurricane center specialist Michael Brennan said. Category 4 storms have sustained winds of at least 131 mph (210 kph).
The storm's forecast track would carry its center north of the Caribbean, then forecasters say it is likely to bend to the north, moving roughly parallel to the U.S. East Coast.
Hurricane warnings were in effect for Antigua, Barbuda, Montserrat, St. Kitts, Nevis, Anguilla, St. Martin, St. Barthelemy, St. Maarten, Saba, St. Eustatius, the British Virgin Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
In Antigua, powerful wind and rain destroyed at least one home and at least eight people had to be evacuated, though there were no reports of critical injuries. Local weather authorities reported at least 5 inches (13 centimeters) of rain and 10-foot (3-meter) waves.
In St. Maarten, the storm toppled trees and knocked out electricity to much of the island but there were no reports of serious damage. Heavy gusts of wind swirled debris across streets that were empty due to a government-imposed curfew.
Early Monday, Earl was about 25 miles (40 kilometers) north-northeast of St. Martin and headed west-northwest at 14 mph (22 kph), according to the center in Miami. Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 50 miles (85 kilometers) from its center.
Earl has grown rapidly in strength, fueled by warm ocean temperatures of 86 F (30 C).
Earl could bring battering waves and storm surges of up to four feet (1.2 meters) above normal on some islands, as well as downpours that threaten to unleash flash floods and mudslides.
Forecasters say there is a chance the hurricane could brush the U.S. Mid-Atlantic region toward the end of the week, with its closest approach to North Carolina on Friday.
In any case, the U.S. East Coast is likely to see pounding surf.
"Folks from the Carolinas northward through the Mid-Atlantic and New England need to be paying attention to Earl and the forecasts as they get updated through the week," Brennan said.
Meanwhile, the Category 1 Hurricane Danielle was weakening far out over the north Atlantic.
Associated Press writers Anika Kentish in St. John's, Antigua, Clive Bacchus in Basseterre, St. Kitts, Peter Orsi in Mexico City and Sofia Mannos in Washington contributed to this report.