(Reuters) - Tropical Storm Maria, the 13th named storm of the 2011 hurricane season, was racing westward across the tropical Atlantic, with tropical storm watches being issued for the Leeward Islands, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in its report late Wednesday.
The NHC said the government of Antigua has issued a tropical storm watch for the islands of Antigua, Barbuda, Montserrat, Nevis and Saint Kitts in the Leeward Islands.
At 11:00 p.m. EST (0300 GMT), Maria was located about 1,070 miles east-southeast of the Leeward Islands and was packing maximum sustained winds of 50 miles per hour (85 km/h), the NHC added.
Maria was moving toward the west near 23 miles per hour (37 km/h), and this rapid motion is expected to continue during the next 24 hours, the NHC said.
"Interests elsewhere in the Leeward Islands, The Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico should monitor the progress of Maria," the NHC said.
A tropical storm watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area, generally within 48 hours.
(Reporting by Naveen Arul in Bangalore; Editing by Michael Urquhart)