Hurricane Maria: Caribbean Islands hit with yet another category 5 superstorm

Saul Bowman
September 20, 2017

Islanders still remember the massive destruction and death caused by David, another Category Five hurricane that struck in 1979.

The country's prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, had to be rescued from his home after the roof was torn off and it was flooded.

Hurricane warnings were posted for the USA and British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Kitts, Nevis and Montserrat. Maria, which comes during a hurricane season that has left many dead and billions of dollars in damages, was recently a category three storm.

But after an Air Force "Hurricane Hunter" plane flew into the storm, Maria regained its Category 5 status, with estimated maximum sustained winds of 160 mph as it stirred about 205 miles southeast of St. Croix in the Virgin Islands, the center said. Remaining over warm water allowed Jose to strengthen back into a hurricane on September 15 as wind shear across the storm diminished.

Maria was expected to be the second major hurricane this year to hit the Leeward Islands, which were hammered by Hurricane Irma earlier this month, the center said.

The hurricane downgraded to a category 4 as it headed toward the French archipelago of Guadeloupe, on lockdown since midday Monday.

Carl Barnes, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston, said it's too early to pin down how Maria will affect the SC coast, but the forecast tracks look much better than Irma at this point.

The islands that could be struck by the hurricane are now recovering from hurricane Irma, which was one of the most powerful storms in history. Hurricane Jose is now moving north on a path parallel to the East Coast and is threatening to bring strong winds, heavy rain and coastal flooding to parts of the Northeast.

"Seek refuge with a family member, friend or move to a state shelter, because rescuers will not go out and risk their lives once winds reach 50 miles per hour", Rosselló said Monday. Overnight Tuesday, Maria is expected to make landfall again on the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico - areas that are still recovering from Irma.

"The storm compounds already existing problems on the island", said Deepak Lamba-Nieves, research director at the Center for a New Economy in San Juan. A tropical storm warning had been issued for Martinique, Antigua and Barbuda, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, St. Lucia and Anguilla. A high risk for rip currents continues.

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