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.