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MIAMI (Reuters) - Tropical Storm Sandy was expected to become a hurricane on Wednesday as it approaches the south coast of Jamaica, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said, prompting authorities on the Caribbean island to close schools and prepare shelters to take in residents of flood prone areas.

The storm was centered about 260 miles south-southwest of the Jamaican capital, Kingston, on Tuesday evening and had top sustained winds of 50 miles per hour.

Forecasters said a tropical storm watch might be issued for South Florida on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, but the storm did not pose a threat to the Gulf of Mexico, where U.S. oil and gas operations are clustered.

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