Sept 17 (Reuters) - Tropical Storm Maria was expected to reach hurricane status later on Sunday, and hurricane watches were in effect for several Caribbean islands, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC).
Some of the islands were devastated by Hurricane Irma earlier this month.
Maria was about 410 miles (655 km) east-southeast of the Lesser Antilles islands with maximum sustained winds of 65 miles per hour at 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT), the NHC said.
"Strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours," the forecaster said.
Hurricane conditions are possible by Monday night or Tuesday in Antigua, Barbuda, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat, Guadeloupe, Dominica, Saba, St. Eustatius, Sint Maarten, St. Martin, St. Barthelemy and Anguilla, according to the NHC.
Tropical storm conditions were possible on Monday in those areas as well as St. Lucia, Martinique, Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. (Writing by Lisa Von Ahn; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)