Hurricane Maria grows, threatens storm-battered Caribbean

Cheryl Sanders
September 19, 2017

The storm is about 100 miles east of Martinique.

At 8pm, the eye of Hurricane Maria was located near latitude 15.3 degrees North, longitude 6112 degrees West.

The storm's maximum sustained winds have reached near 120 miles per hour, with gusts at higher speeds. It will become the first Category 5 storm to strike Dominica in recorded history.

Earlier in the day, governments in Maria's path urged residents to hurry preparations as time ran out.

Forecasters said hurricane conditions should begin to affect parts of the Leeward Islands by Monday afternoon or evening, with storm surge raising water levels by 1.2 to 1.8 metres near the storm's centre.

While Jose is capable of producing coastal flooding and pockets of damaging wind from eastern Long Island to coastal MA, its effects are most likely to resemble those of a strong Nor'easter - rather than a devastating hurricane.

A hurricane warning has been issued for the islands of Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat, St. Lucia, Martinique, and the British and U.S. Virgin Islands. It is moving west-northwest at 13 miles per hour (20 kph).

"We may luck out and it turns north before reaching Florida", Dave Samuhel, an AccuWeather meteorologist, said. After hitting those Caribbean islands over the next few days, the storm has the potential to move north and hit Florida, or potentially the east coast of the US.

Five people were knocked off a coastal jetty in the U.S. Northeast by high surf caused by Hurricane Jose hundreds of miles (kilometers) away in the Atlantic.

There are three active tropical cyclones in the Atlantic Ocean: Hurricanes Jose and Maria and Tropical Depression Lee.

"We're liking what we've been seeing", said Maria Torres, a forecaster for the National Weather Service in Miami.

Areas of the Caribbean still recovering from the devastation wrought by Irma, including the Virgin Islands, remain at risk. Amounts as high as 20 inches are possible in some places.

Torres added that forecasters will know better by the end of the week, when the storm is expected to barrel through the Bahamas, but "right now, the latest tracks keep the storm east of Florida, so we might not be directly impacted like we were with Irma", she said. Some locations could see up to 25 inches. Almost 70,000 people remain without power, and Gov. Ricardo Rossello on Monday warned of another widespread outage.

Puerto Rico housing authorities said there are 450 shelters able to take in 62,714 evacuees, and up to 125,428 in an emergency situation. Classes were canceled and government employees were told to work only a half-day. An emergency warning has been issued for the island.

Irma became one of the strongest hurricanes on record, maintaining winds over 180 miles per hour for almost two days.

The storm's future path is unclear at this point. On Barbuda, more than 90 percent of the buildings were destroyed, including the hospital and airport. Irma killed 15 people on St Martin, an island shared by France and the Netherlands.

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