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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- Tropical Storm Bertha swirled toward the Caribbean on Friday as islands in the eastern region prepared for heavy rains and strong winds.

The storm's maximum sustained winds Friday afternoon were near 50 mph, with no significant change in strength expected in the next two days. Bertha was centered about 45 miles east of Martinique and was moving west-northwest at 24 mph.

The storm is approaching near Martinique on Friday afternoon, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Tropical storm warnings have been issued for Barbados, Dominica, Martinique, Vieques, Culebra, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. A tropical storm watch is in effect for the eastern Dominican Republic, from Cabo Frances Viejo to Isla Saona. A tropical storm warning for St. Lucia was discontinued.

Bertha is expected to generate up to 3 inches of rain across the region, with isolated amounts of up to 6 inches in certain areas.

Parts of the Caribbean are preparing as Tropical Storm Bertha heads towards the area. Winds are expected around 40-50 mph.

More on the tropical weather:

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