Hurricane Maria: storm strengthens as it heads towards Caribbean

Leeward Islands, British and Virgin islands as well as Puerto Rico bracing themselves for the impact of Maria, less than two weeks after Irma

18 September 2017, 9:08am
The likely path of Maria as it nears already battered islands in local time (Photo: BBC)
The likely path of Maria as it nears already battered islands in local time (Photo: BBC)
Another powerful storm is bearing down on the already battered Caribbean islands on Sunday, with forecasters saying that Maria had strengthened into a hurricane and would intensify before hitting the Leeward Islands on Monday evening.

Maria was about 445km miles east-southeast of the Leeward island of Dominica, with maximum sustained winds of 100km/h at 4pm (8pm GMT), the US National Hurricane Centre said.

The forecaster said: “Maria ... could be near major hurricane intensity when it affects portions of the Leeward Islands over the next few days, bringing dangerous wind, storm surge and rainfall hazards.”

Maximum sustained winds were expected to accelerate to 120mph within 72 hours, at which time the hurricane could reach the British and US Virgin Islands as well as Puerto Rico.

The government of Puerto Rico has already begun preparations for Maria, which, according to officials, is expected to make landfall on Tuesday.

Hurricane warnings were also in place for the French island of Guadeloupe, Dominica, St Kitts, Nevis and Montserrat, while a hurricane watch was in effect for the US Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Saba and St Eustatius, St Maarten, St Martin and St Barthelemy and Anguilla.

A tropical storm warning was in effect for Antigua and Barbuda, St Lucia and Martinique.

Maria is approaching the eastern Caribbean less than two weeks after hurricane Irma caused destruction and chaos in the region, before over-running Florida. The powerful storm claimed at least 84 lives, more than half of which in the Caribbean

The NHC also issued a tropical storm watch for portions of the US mid-Atlantic and New England coast by Tuesday as a second hurricane, Jose, moved slowly north from its current position in the Atlantic Ocean about 535km south-east of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

The eye of Jose, with top sustained winds of 150 km/h, should remain off the US east coast, the NHC said.