Maria becomes a hurricane, moves toward islands battered by Irma

Cheryl Sanders
September 19, 2017

Maria grew into a hurricane on Sunday, and forecasters said it was expected to become much stronger while following a path that would take it near numerous islands wrecked by Hurricane Irma and on to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

"Maria continues to strengthen and is expected to be at major hurricane intensity when it affects portions of the Leeward Islands over the next few days, bringing unsafe wind, storm surge and rainfall hazards", the Center said. Weather officials are describing Maria as "potentially catastrophic", warning of life-threatening flash floods and mudslides from heavy rain. She was expected to become a Category 4 before heading toward Puerto Rico, but she has strengthened even more, with sustained winds over 160 miles per hour and even higher gusts.

They had been expected to leave yesterday to help fix the damage left behind by Hurricane Irma, but have postponed the trip until midweek while the Caribbean awaits the arrival of Tropical Storm Maria.

With two hurricanes and a tropical storm spinning in the Atlantic, the Lowcountry coast remains at risk for additional strikes this hurricane season.

On the forecast track, the centre of Maria is expected to move across the northern Windward Islands during the next few hours.

"Maria is likely to affect Puerto Rico as an extremely risky major hurricane and a hurricane warning has been issued for that island".

The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Maria was "rapidly" intensifying into a major hurricane as it headed towards the eastern Caribbean. The storm is about 45 miles east-southeast of Dominica and 35 miles northeast of Martinique, according to a National Hurricane Center advisory.

However, the curve many models are predicting the storm to take is still five to six days out, which Irma already proved to show is too far away to determine exactly where the storm will go.

Maria is a threat to Puerto Rico. Tropical storm warnings are in effect for a handful of islands off of New England, including Nantucket.

A Hurricane Watch is in effect for. Hurricane watches have been issued for Saba and St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, St. Martin and St. Barthelemy, Anguilla, and from Isla Saona to Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic. Tropical Storm Maria is not as strong as Irma was, but still likely to be a powerful and destructive hurricane when it passes through the island chain on Tuesday.

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