Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico as a category 4 storm on Wednesday (September 20) morning , thrashing the U.S. territory with life-threatening winds and cutting power to thousands. Maria, the strongest storm to hit Puerto Rico since 1928, had maximum sustained winds of 155 mph as it made landfall near the town of Yabucoa in the southeast just after 6 a.m. ET, the National Hurricane Center said.
The storm is expected to bring up to 25 inches of rain to Puerto Rico and some 16 inches to the U.S. Virgin Islands. The islands could also see several tornadoes throughout Wednesday.
Photo: Hurricane Maria Makes Landfall in Puerto Rico as category 4 storm
Maria was a Category 5 hurricane — the strongest there is — when it killed one person and injured two others as it hit the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe on Monday night. Widespread devastation was also reported on Dominica.
More than 10,000 islanders were in shelters early Monday as thousands of others scrambled to evacuate.
President Donald Trump has declared states of emergency in both territories, and the Coast Guard has moved all its ships, aircraft and personnel out of harm’s way so they can quickly launch rescue missions once the storm passes, officials said.
Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands Brace For Cat 5 Hurricane Maria After Dominica Devastation
Hurricane Maria made landfall in Dominica as a category five storm (the highest level) with winds of 260km/h (160mph). It was briefly downgraded to a category four, but is back to a five as it moves towards Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Hurricane Maria is forecast to approach the islands tonight and tomorrow.
Forecasters say Hurricane Maria poses a “potentially catastrophic” threat to Caribbean islands in its path.
“Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion,” the National Hurricane Center stated in its advisory at 5:00 a.m. ET Tuesday, just two weeks after devastation in many of the same areas caused by Hurricane Irma. Many islands in the path of Maria are still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Irma earlier this month
There were reports of “widespread devastation” in Dominica, whose Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit said his house had been devastated. Dominica’s PM Roosevelt Skerrit also said his nation has “lost all what money can buy” after Category 5 Hurricane Maria ravaged the island.
Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit later confirmed that he had been rescued. But the fact that the island nation’s Prime Minister could see the roof fly off his own home highlighted the risks for the people living in the storm’s path.
Hurricane warnings are also in effect for the islands of Guadeloupe, St. Kitts, Nevis, and Montserrat, and the British Virgin Islands, with other islands seeing Tropical Storm Warnings and Hurricane Watches.
Photo: Hurricane Maria batters Guadaloupe
Maria is currently located about 65 miles west-northwest of the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, moving west-northwest at about 9 miles per hour, according to the National Hurricane Center.
It says Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands could see water levels rise 6 to 9 feet, “if the peak surge occurs at the time of high tide.” The Leeward Islands and the British Virgin Islands could see water levels rise “by as much as 7 to 11 feet above normal tide levels.”
That’s expected to be accompanied by inches of rainfall – which “will cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides.”
Authorities in Puerto Rico are calling for “people in wooden or flimsy homes” to find shelter, The Associated Press reports.
“You have to evacuate. Otherwise, you’re going to die,” said Hector Pesquera, Puerto Rico’s public safety commissioner. “I don’t know how to make this any clearer.”
Hurricane Maria Closes In On Dominica As Category 5 Storm
Hurricane Maria is quickly gaining strength barrelling through the constellation of islands that curve through the Caribbean as it closes in on Dominica. In 27 hours, it grew from a Category 1 storm to what the National Hurricane Center called “a potentially catastrophic Category 5 hurricane,” with maximum sustained winds of 160 miles per hour as it raced toward Puerto Rico and the already-pummeled British and United States Virgin Islands.
Some islands still reeling from the impact of Hurricane Irma were bracing late Monday for Round 2, closing schools, stores and just about everything else before the storm made landfall.
More than two dozen people were killed by Irma, and on Monday emergency shelters were beginning to fill up on the islands of Guadeloupe, Dominica and Montserrat, as well as on St. Kitts and Nevis. Those who chose to stay home were busy boarding up their houses, trimming trees or gathering stockpiles of food and water.
Though Maria is expected to trace a similar path to Hurricane Irma, some of the islands hit hardest by that storm may be spared. Instead, having escaped the wrath of Irma, the islands of Guadeloupe and Dominica were expected to bear the initial brunt of Maria. Its eye and “intense inner core” were expected to pass near Dominica over the course of Monday evening, the National Hurricane Center said.
But the already storm-battered islands could be affected in other ways. In addition to being the main sanctuary for those evacuating St. Martin, Guadeloupe has also become the staging ground for the relief effort. If the storm hits hard, it could delay or upend the desperately needed aid going to its neighbor.
Photo: Hurricane Maria Closes In On Dominica As Category 5 Storm
Local authorities across the region have implored residents to take the warnings seriously. Having suffered season after season of hurricanes, they are fearful residents will shrug off yet another storm. The prime minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit, addressed the tiny nation Monday morning, asking residents to remain calm but be prepared.