Hurricane forecast

As system east of the Lesser Antilles could become Tropical Storm Cristobal in the next several days. (National Hurricane Center / August 21, 2014)

A system of rain and thunderstorms about 350 miles east of the Lesser Antilles islands could become the third named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season within the next several days, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Forecasters give it a 70 percent chance of forming into a tropical cyclone, which would be named Tropical Storm Cristobal, within five days.

While it's still too early to forecast any track or intensity with any certainty, models suggest it could track across Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and Cuba, then the Bahamas and Florida.

Here is the hurricane center's full tropical weather outlook, as of 8 a.m. Thursday: 

Shower and thunderstorm activity associated with an elongated area of low pressure located about 350 miles east of the Lesser Antilles has changed little in organization during the past several hours. Environmental conditions are expected to be conducive for development during the next day or so, and a tropical depression could form while the system moves west-northwestward at 15 to 20 mph across the Lesser Antilles and over the eastern Caribbean Sea. The mountainous terrain of Hispaniola and eastern Cuba could limit development during the first part of the weekend, but conditions are expected to become more conducive for development by early next week when the system is forecast to move near or over the Bahamas.

1. Regardless of tropical cyclone formation, gusty winds and heavy rainfall are possible across portions of the Lesser Antilles, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands tonight and Friday, and over Hispaniola late Friday and Saturday. Interests in those islands should closely monitor the progress of this disturbance. An Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft is scheduled to investigate the low this afternoon, if necessary.

* Formation chance through 48 hours...medium...50 percent.

* Formation chance through 5 days...high...70 percent.