Laura's death toll mounting in Caribbean as storm sets course toward US

As of early Monday morning, the storm had strengthened slightly near eastern Cuba, with wind speeds of 65 mph and was moving west-northwest at 21 mph.

Laura's death toll mounting in Caribbean as storm sets course toward US

Along its course toward the United States, Tropical Storm Laura has unleashed damaging and deadly impacts across the northern Caribbean. At least nine deaths have been attributed to Laura, three of which occurred in the Dominican Republic and five in Haiti.

Laura developed in the Atlantic just a couple of hundred miles east-southeast of the northern Leeward Islands on Friday morning, shattering the record for the earliest "L"-named storm on record in the basin. The previous "L" storm record was held by Luis, which formed on Aug. 29, 1995.

As of early Monday morning, the storm had strengthened slightly near eastern Cuba, with wind speeds of 65 mph and was moving west-northwest at 21 mph.

Tropical storm watches and warnings are in effect from Cuba to the Florida Keys. The National Hurricane Center stated early Monday morning that a hurricane watch would likely be required for portions of the U.S. Gulf Coast by Monday evening.

Puerto Rico was one of the first Caribbean islands to feel the effects of Laura earlier this past weekend. Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez declared a state of emergency and warned residents to stay inside as downpours and gusty winds drenched the island early this weekend. Nearly 6 inches of rain fell in some areas, prompting flood warnings. The Rio Guanajibo River near Hormigueros has risen about 6 feet as of Saturday night.

Heavy rain and high winds will continue to spread westward across Cuba as the storm cruises along a swift pace through Monday.

Rainfall can average 4-8 inches with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 12 inches across the region, leading to flash flooding, washouts and mudslides.