TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Tropical Storm Philippe is expected to become a hurricane later this week, according to the National Hurricane Center.

At 5 p.m., Philippe was located about 20 miles east of Barbuda as it moved northwest at 7 mph.

The storm’s center was expected to pass by the Northern Leeward Islands on Monday.

The storm had maximum sustained winds of 50 mph. However, forecasters said Philippe could strengthen “more significantly” by the middle of the week.

Credit: NOAA

“Now that Tropical Storm Rena is post-tropical, Philippe has a chance to strengthen,” Max Defender 8 meteorologist Leigh Spann said. “It heads north into the open waters of the central Atlantic, but it eventually strengthens to a hurricane.” 

A tropical storm warning has been issued for Barbuda while a tropical storm watch is also in effect for Antigua.

The latest cone map from the NHC has Philippe becoming a hurricane sometime Friday evening or Saturday morning. However, it will remain in the Atlantic and will not move toward the United States.