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Hurricane Maria: makes landfall in Puerto Rico with force not seen in ‘modern history’

'On the forecast track, it would be the most destructive hurricane in Puerto Rico history', tweeted forecaster at the Hurricane Centre

20 September 2017, 3:08pm
Hurricane Maria makes landfall in Puerto Rico after devastating Dominica (Photo: Business Insider)
Hurricane Maria makes landfall in Puerto Rico after devastating Dominica (Photo: Business Insider)
Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico today, making it the strongest storm to strike the island in over 80 years, while residents fled to high ground and huddled in shelters.

A forecaster at the Hurricane Centre, Eric Blake, tweeted: "On the forecast track, [Maria] would be the most destructive hurricane in Puerto Rico history." 

The storm struck near Yabucoa, Puerto Rico at 6:15am local time, as a Category 4 hurricane, with winds of 155mph – the first of its kind to hit the island since 1932.

Speaking on NBC's "Today" show Wednesday, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said conditions were "deteriorating rapidly."

"This is clearly going to be the most devastating storm in the history of our island," he said, adding that it will take another 12 hours for the worst part to hit.

Buildings that meet the island's newer construction codes, established around 2011, should be able to weather the winds, Rosselló said. But wooden homes in flood-prone areas "have no chance," he predicted.

The hurricane has already roared over the islands to the east, with winds over 160mph and rain that triggered flooding and landslides. On the island of Guadeloupe, officials said that at least two deaths were blamed on Maria, and at least two went missing near the French island of Desirade.

On Monday, the prime minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit, described the devastation that Maria was causing: “My roof is gone. I am at the complete mercy of the hurricane. House is flooding”, he wrote.

Earlier this month, Puerto Rico was spared the full force of the Category 5 hurricane Irma, yet, it was still strong enough to cut the power off for around a million people and thus, weaken its hurricane defences.

"This is going to be an extremely violent phenomenon," Rosselló told the Associated Press, as hurricane Maria approached.

"We have not experienced an event of this magnitude in our modern history."

Abner Gómez, executive director of Puerto Rico's emergency management agency, told reporters that the island's electric system was beginning to collapse even further. Meanwhile, the island's governor tweeted that by 5 a.m., there were 11,229 people in shelters, and 580 pets.

Before dawn, Maria's maximum sustained winds of 150 mph were down slightly from late Tuesday. But that meant little for Maria's ability to threaten anything in its path.

"Maria is an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane … and it should maintain this intensity until landfall," the Hurricane Centre said.