Hurricane Maria path: Where is 'catastrophic' storm heading, when will it hit Puerto Rico and how much damage will it do?

Huge storm causes 'widespread devastation' on Dominica as Puerto Rico braces for impact

Jon Sharman
Tuesday 19 September 2017 10:34 BST
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Satellite imagery shows Hurricane Maria gaining strength

Hurricane Maria remains “extremely dangerous” after it battered the Caribbean island of Dominica, having regained its Category 5 status, the US National Hurricane Centre (NHC) has said.

The island’s Prime Minister told of “widespread devastation” and high winds sweeping away “the roofs of almost every person I have spoken to”.

Early on Monday the NHC said hurricane warnings were in place for Guadeloupe, Dominica, St Kitts and Nevis, Monserrat, the British and US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Culebra and Vieques.

“Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion,” the NHC said, warning of “large and destructive” storm surge waves in Maria’s path.

Its forecast showed Puerto Rico was facing a direct hit from the storm, with sustained winds up to 155mph, after it suffered a glancing blow from Hurricane Irma earlier this month.

That storm’s eye passed north of the island, a US territory, but still caused widespread power outages and a small number of deaths.

Damage from Maria is likely to be significantly worse, with governor Ricardo Rossello calling the probable impact “catastrophic”. The island will be battered by hurricane-force winds for the “better part of a day” on Wednesday, he told CNN.

He added: “This is an event that will be damaging to the infrastructure, that will be catastrophic, and our main focus — our only focus right now — should be to make sure we save lives.”

It could be the worst storm in 30 years for the island, he said.

The hurricane is currently moving west-north-west at about 9mph and is due to approach the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Tuesday night and Wednesday.

NHC analysts said: “Some fluctuations in intensity are likely during the next day or two, but Maria is forecast to remain an extremely dangerous category 4 or 5 hurricane while it approaches the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.”

If peak storm surge waters coincide with high tide, levels are expected to rise between 6ft and 9ft above ground in those territories.

The forecast path of Hurricane Maria
The forecast path of Hurricane Maria (National Hurricane Centre)

The NHC added: “A dangerous storm surge accompanied by large and destructive waves will raise water levels by as much as 7ft to 11ft feet above normal tide levels in the hurricane warning area near where the centre of Maria moves across the Leeward Islands and the British Virgin Islands.”

A tropical storm warning is in place for Antigua and Barbuda, Saba and St Eustatius, St Martin, Anguilla, St Lucia and Martinique, meaning some areas already reeling from Hurricane Irma may now face renewed winds of more than 50mph.

The Dominican Republic is under a hurricane watch, meaning hurricane conditions are possible in the eastern portion of Hispaniola—another prior victim of Irma.

After passing the Dominican Republic Maria is forecast to turn north toward the Bahamas, missing both Cuba and Florida.

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