Hurricane Maria is following Irma's path and getting stronger

Cheryl Sanders
September 19, 2017

HURRICANE Maria was due to hit the Leeward Islands in the eastern Caribbean last night as forecasters warned the storm was expected to strengthen.

Maria is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 10 to 15 inches in the central and southern Leeward islands, the hurricane center says, "with isolated maximum amounts of 20 inches across the central and southern Leeward Islands, including Puerto Rico and the USA and British Virgin Islands, through Wednesday night".

The former British colony, which has a population of 72,000 and is less than 50km long and 25km wide, escaped the worst of Hurricane Irma two weeks ago.

On Monday, the storm cut across not only Dominica but also Martinique, French Guadeloupe and St. Lucia, where hurricane warnings were in effect.

"We are planning for the unexpected, we are planning for the worst", said Chris Austin, head of a United Kingdom military task force set up to deal with Irma, as the British Virgin Islands readied for the storm. It had strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane with winds of 85 miles per hour, and is forecast to continue moving toward the eastern Caribbean at 13 miles per hour. The storm's center was about 60 miles (95 kilometers) east of Martinique, with maximum sustained winds of 120 mph (195 kph).

But Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, in a Facebook post around the time Maria made landfall, said the storm has blown the roof off his home, adding, "I am at the complete mercy of the hurricane".

On Wednesday, Maria was expected to be near or over Puerto Rico, which was spared the full brunt of Irma, although much of the island had its power knocked out.

Winds are expected to hit speeds of up to 140 miles per hour, and it's expected to be at category 3 or 4 intensity by the time it hits into the extreme northeastern Caribbean Sea.

How strong is Hurricane Maria?

The hurricane center said hurricane conditions should begin to affect parts of the Leeward Islands by Monday night, with storm surge raising water levels by 4 to 6 feet near the storm's center. After crossing the Leeward Islands tonight, it's expected to near the Virgin Islands and pass near or over Puerto Rico in 48 hours.

Hours before Maria's expected landfall on Dominica - and just over week after the island was brushed by Irma - Skerrit urged residents to take any belongings that could become risky projectiles indoors. A hurricane has not made landfall in Puerto Rico since Georges in 1998. The projected path of Maria takes it straight toward Puerto Rico.

"Maria is developing the dreaded pinhole eye", the Hurricane Center noted. A tropical storm warning is in effect for Antiqua, Barbuda, Saba and St. Eustatius.

New Jersey, Delaware, Long Island Sound, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard are all in the possible path of Jose, according to the National Hurricane Center, and all along the East Coast risky surf and rip currents are expected.

Ms Patel said British troops, police and aid experts were "working relentlessly" to help the victims of Irma, and said they would now be tasked with also preparing for the impact of Maria.

Irma, a Category 5 hurricane, left around 40 people dead in the Caribbean before churning west and pounding Florida, where the death toll stood at 50 Monday.

A British military reconnaissance team is on standby to go to Montserrat and assess needs, the office said.

The storm, positioned 240 miles east-northeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, was headed north at 9 mph at 5 a.m. Tuesday.

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