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Chantal churns past Jamaica

Satellite image taken at 4:36 p.m. EDT Saturday  

MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- Belize and Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula braced Saturday for the arrival of Tropical Storm Chantal, which was passing to the south of Jamaica on its way into the western Caribbean.

Mexico issued a tropical storm watch from Chetumal to Cancun, and the government of Belize issued a watch for that Central American country. In addition, tropical storm warnings and hurricane watches were in effect for Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.

But little change was reported in the storm's strength late Saturday, and forecasters expected it to slow its rapid forward movement on Sunday.

At 2 a.m. EDT Sunday

Tropical storm

15.4 degrees north latitude, 78.3 degrees west longitude,
175 miles (280 kilometers) south-southwest of Kingston, Jamaica

West at near 17 mph (27 km/h)

Sustained winds nearing 60 mph (95 km/h)

Forward speed expected to slow on Sunday; possible turn to the west-northwest

Hurricane watch and tropical storm warning in effect for Cayman Islands and Jamaica; tropical storm watch in Belize and Yucatan Peninsula Chetumal to Cancun

In-Depth: Hurricanes  

"It's a tropical storm now, but it's struggling," said Michael Formosa, a forecaster at the National Weather Service in Miami, Florida.

"We're not really impressed with the satellite imagery ... you know, it's not as organized as you would like to see it, especially if it's supposed to be strengthening to a hurricane."

At 2 a.m. EDT the National Weather Service reported that the storm was producing sustained winds nearing 60 mph (95 km/h) with higher gusts. Earlier in the day the service reported that Jamaica had downgraded a hurricane warning to a tropical storm warning.

At latest report, the storm was about 175 miles (280 kilometers) south-southwest of Kingston, Jamaica, heading west at about 17 mph (27 km/h). Forecasters said Chantal would likely turn to the west-northwest as it slows on Sunday.

The service said the storm could yield rainfall totals of 3 to 5 inches, with increased amounts in mountainous areas.

Chantal is the Atlantic's third named storm this summer.

The Atlantic has yet to see a hurricane this season, which began in June. Two other tropical storms, Allison and Barry, made landfall along the northern Gulf Shore of the United States with heavy rains and flooding.

Allison's 12-day march from Texas to New England left 35 people dead and caused more than $1 billion in damage.

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