BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (AP) _ A rapidly strengthening Hurricane Ivan churned closer to the Caribbean, packing sustained winds of 135 mph with meteorologists saying it's possible that the system could reach Category 5 status.

Barbados has issued a hurricane watch for the entire island while a tropical storm watch has been issued for Grenada.

``It could make a direct hit in Barbados,'' said Eric Blake, a meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

The Category 4 storm _ just one step from being the most deadly _ was near latitude 10.7 north, longitude 50.6 west, about 625 miles east-southeast of Barbados at 2 a.m., the center said.

The hurricane is due to reach the island of 280,000 residents by Tuesday and was expected to keep strengthening, with hundreds of miles of warm water before the nearest land.

``The possibility is there for it to become a Category 5,'' said Chris Hennon, another meteorologist at the hurricane center.

For the hurricane to reach Category 5 status, sustained winds must be greater than 155 mph.

Ivan became the fourth major hurricane of the season on Sunday afternoon. Earlier in the day, the system was a tropical storm.

``It is not very common for a tropical system to strengthen so quickly,'' said Robert Molleda, a meteorologist at the hurricane center.

The hurricane is also forecast to move over St. Lucia. Several islands in the Windward chain could also feel the effects, meteorologists said.

Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 25 miles while tropical storm winds can be felt 125 miles from the center.

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On the Net:

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov

http://www.wunderground.com/tropical