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Tropical depression forms in Caribbean

GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands – A tropical storm warning was issued for the Cayman Islands on Saturday and residents, many of whom had not removed the hurricane shutters from earlier storms this season, began preparing for the worst.

The system could become Tropical Storm Wilma today, which would make it the 21st named storm of the season, tying the record for the most storms in an Atlantic season, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

The only other time that many storms have formed since record keeping began 154 years ago was in 1933.

At 11 p.m. EDT, the tropical depression was about 215 miles southeast of Grand Cayman and about 125 miles southwest of Montego Bay, Jamaica, forecasters said. It was moving southwest at 3 mph with sustained winds near 30 mph. Depressions become tropical storms when their winds reach 39 mph.

Long-term forecasts show the storm would likely move in a general westward direction for the next three days, then turn to the north, possibly as a hurricane.

A hurricane watch was issued for the Cayman Islands, meaning hurricane conditions could be felt there within 36 hours.

The depression is expected to bring 3 to 5 inches of rain over the Cayman Islands and Jamaica, with as much as 10 inches possible in some areas, forecasters said.

In the Cayman Islands, 51-year-old Susan Craig was ready.

“I still have all the supplies from the previous storms this season, basically a lot of peanut M&M’s, so I am ready just in case,” she said.

The chairman of the Cayman Islands’ National Hurricane Center, Donovan Ebanks, said authorities had been monitoring the weather for several days.

“Because of where it is, and the fact that it is projected to become a tropical storm by tomorrow and possibly a hurricane in a couple of days, we’ve decided to go ahead and issue a tropical storm warning and a hurricane watch,” he said.

In Jamaica, officials issued a flash flood warning for northwestern parts of the island. Jamaica’s office of disaster preparedness said several businesses had been flooded in Montego Bay.

Hurricane season ends Nov. 30.