MIAMI Tropical Storm Emily intensified on Tuesday as it churned across the Caribbean on a path likely to take it over the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
Emily was located about 185 miles south-southeast of the Puerto Rican capital of San Juan at 5 p.m. EDT, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
It said the fifth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season was heading west-northwest at 12 miles per hour and had sustained winds of 50 mph.
It posed no apparent threat to oil and gas production facilities in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. But conditions appeared favorable for the storm to strengthen slightly before it sloshed over Hispaniola, the mountainous island shared by both the Dominican Republic and Haiti, late on Wednesday.
"Rains could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides in areas of mountainous terrain," the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said.
It said Emily was expected to remain a tropical storm, falling just shy of hurricane strength at its peak, And the latest track guidance for the storm showed it moving northward across the Bahamas, well offshore from the U.S. East Coast, before heading into the open Atlantic.
Heavy rainfall can be particularly threatening to Haiti, the Western Hemisphere's poorest country. In June, rains triggered flooding and mudslides, killing 23 people in Port-au-Prince.
The flooding also worsened a cholera epidemic in Haiti, where nearly 6,000 people have died since October after an outbreak of the deadly diarrheal disease spread by contaminated water and food.
(Reporting by Kevin Gray; Editing by Tom Brown and David Gregorio)