Tropical Storm Bret continued moving west across the Caribbean Sea on Friday, a day after bringing high winds and heavy rain to several small islands southeast of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
Bret damaged homes and sent more than 120 people to shelters in the Lesser Antilles islands of St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Thursday, local officials said. As of 5 p.m. on Friday it was 170 miles east-northeast of the island of Curaçao, moving at 21 miles per hour with maximum sustained winds of 50 m.p.h. — well below hurricane strength.
The storm was expected to continue moving west across the Caribbean Sea toward Central America — well south of both Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic — on Friday and Saturday.
The National Hurricane Center said on Friday afternoon that rainfall from Bret was expected to continue to diminish across the Lesser Antilles on Friday evening as the storm moved westward across the eastern to central Caribbean.
Tropical storm warnings that had been in effect in Barbados and in St. Vincent and the Grenadines were lifted on Friday morning, and there were no other watches or warnings in place.
Bret formed on Monday as the second named storm of the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season. Another system, Tropical Storm Cindy, formed farther east late Thursday, becoming the season’s third named storm. Tropical storms earn a name once they have sustained winds of 39 m.p.h.
A number of public facilities in the region were closed as Bret approached on Thursday, including schools, airports, businesses and government offices in St. Lucia; schools in Barbados; and the Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados. The airport reopened on Friday morning.
“I am happy to say upfront that the all-clear has been given,” Wilfred Abrahams, the minister of home affairs for Barbados, said on Friday morning. He added that if residents exercise caution and pay attention, they should be able to drive and conduct their business safely.
He said that there were no reported injuries because of the storm, but that there may still be downed power lines and road blockages.
“Be vigilant, be safe,” he said.
Myccle Burke, the chairman of the Agency for Public Information for St. Vincent and the Grenadines, said in an update about storm conditions that more than 120 people were in shelters, adding that many people near the coastline had evacuated.
Mr. Burke said the government had already received reports of damaged homes and anticipated more reports of damages to homes and other buildings.
Bret is the third tropical cyclone to reach tropical storm strength this year. The National Hurricane Center said in May that it had reassessed a storm that formed off the northeastern United States in mid-January and determined that it was a subtropical storm, making it the Atlantic’s first cyclone of the year. However, the storm was not retroactively given a name, making Arlene, which formed in the Gulf of Mexico on June 2, the first named storm in the Atlantic basin this year.
The Atlantic hurricane season started on June 1 and runs through Nov. 30.
In late May, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted that there would be 12 to 17 named storms this year, a “near-normal” amount. There were 14 named storms last year, after two extremely busy Atlantic hurricane seasons in which forecasters ran out of names and had to resort to backup lists. (In 2020, there were a record 30 named storms.)
However, the NOAA did not express a great deal of certainty in its forecast this year, saying there was a 40 percent chance of a near-normal season, a 30 percent chance of an above-normal season and a 30 percent chance of a below-normal season.
The arrival of Bret and Cindy marks the first time since 1968 there have been two named storms in the Atlantic in June at the same time, Philip Klotzbach, a researcher at Colorado State University who studies hurricanes, said on Twitter.
There were indications of above-average ocean temperatures in the Atlantic, which could fuel storms, and the potential for an above-normal West African monsoon. The monsoon season produces storm activity that can lead to some of the more powerful and longer-lasting Atlantic storms.
This year also features El Niño, which arrived this month. The intermittent climate phenomenon can have wide-ranging effects on weather around the world, including a reduction in the number of Atlantic hurricanes.
In the Atlantic, El Niño increases the amount of wind shear, or the change in wind speed and direction from the ocean or land surface into the atmosphere. Hurricanes need a calm environment to form, and the instability caused by increased wind shear makes those conditions less likely. (El Niño has the opposite effect in the Pacific, reducing the amount of wind shear.) Even in average or below-average years, there is a chance that a powerful storm will make landfall.
As global warming worsens, that chance increases. There is solid consensus among scientists that hurricanes are becoming more powerful because of climate change. Although there might not be more named storms overall, the likelihood of major hurricanes is increasing.
Climate change is also affecting the amount of rain that storms can produce. In a warming world, the air can hold more moisture, which means a named storm can hold and produce more rainfall, like Hurricane Harvey did in Texas in 2017, when some areas received more than 40 inches of rain in less than 48 hours.
Researchers have also found that storms have slowed down, sitting over areas for longer, over the past few decades.
Other potential effects of climate change include greater storm surge, rapid intensification and a broader reach of tropical systems.
Eduardo Medina, Rebecca Carballo, Mike Ives, Orlando Mayorquin, Livia Albeck-Ripka and Derrick Bryson Taylor contributed reporting.