MIAMI (AP) _ Tropical Storm Alex weakened Friday, posing only a minimal threat to Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands, although it could come closer to land than earlier thought.

``The good news is that the storm is falling apart,'' said Jerry Jarrell, director of the National Hurricane Center.

But he said the storm is centered farther south than had been expected, a course that may bring it closer to the islands.

At 11 p.m. EDT Friday, Alex was located near 16.1 north latitude, 52.1 west longitude, or about 575 miles east of the Leeward Islands in the eastern Caribbean.

The storm's wind speed decreased to near 40 mph. It is moving west at about 13 mph. Forecasters say that although they said Thursday that they expected Alex to reach hurricane status within two days, strong southerly upper-level winds hit the storm, weakening it.

Forecasters said Alex could be downgraded to a tropical depression Friday night or Saturday.