In the Caribbean, a region still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Irma, island nations are now watching the powerful Category 5 Hurricane Maria as it pushes toward Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Hurricane Maria swept through the Dominica just after 9 p.m. on Monday night, leaving what the prime minister of the island nation called in a Facebook post “widespread devastation.”
The hurricane regained strength and was upgraded to Category 4 after passing through Dominica, according to an 8 a.m. update from the National Hurricane Center. It now has estimated maximum winds of a punishing 160 miles per hour. A hurricane warning remained in effect as of the time of the update for Guadeloupe, St. Kitts, Nevis, and Montserrat, in addition to Dominica, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands.
According to the National Hurricane Center, Maria is churning northwest and is expected to approach the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Tuesday night and Wednesday. “Maria is a potentially catastrophic Category 5 hurricane,” the center said in the update. “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.”
In a post around 1 a.m., Roosevelt Skerrit, the prime minister of Dominica, said it was still too early to have a full assessment of the damage done to the island but that “initial reports are of widespread devastation.”
So, far the winds have swept away the roofs of almost every person I have spoken to or otherwise made contact with. The roof to my own official residence was among the first to go and this apparently triggered an avalanche of torn away roofs in the city and the countryside.
I am honestly not preoccupied with physical damage at this time, because it is devastating...indeed, mind boggling. My focus now is in rescuing the trapped and securing medical assistance for the injured.
Earlier in the night, Skerrit posted on Facebook with updates of his experience waiting for the hurricane to pass.
Maria is the strongest storm ever recorded to hit Dominica, and it would be the first storm of its strength to hit Puerto Rico in 85 years. On Monday night, President Trump declared a state of emergency for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to make the territories eligible for federal assistance. According to USA Today, Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosselló has been working with federal agencies to prepare for the storm, and officials have “promised ‘brigades’ of energy workers to help Puerto Rico reinstate power on the island after Maria.”
Meteorologists are also watching Hurricane Jose, a less powerful storm in the Atlantic to the north. Jose, still a Category 1 hurricane, according to an 8 a.m. update, is expected to stir up “dangerous surf and rip currents” along the eastern coast of the U.S. in the next few days. A tropical storm warning remains in effect for the coast of Rhode Island, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket, and it could cause some flooding—but not hurricane conditions—from Long Island to the coast of Massachusetts. The storm is expected to weaken on Wednesday.