Hurricane Maria takes aim at Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands as Category 5 storm strengthens

Hurricane Maria is taking aim at Puerto Rico as the Category 5 storm barreled toward the U.S. territory Tuesday night with disastrous winds and “life-threatening” flooding, according to forecasters.

Maria, a “potentially catastrophic” storm, has top sustained winds near 175 mph, and was located about 160 miles southeast of San Juan, as of the National Hurricane Center’s 8 p.m. advisory. The major hurricane was moving to the west-northwest at 10 mph, and “some fluctuations in intensity are likely during the next day or two,” according to the NHC.

“Conditions will continue to deteriorate across the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, with the worst conditions there early Wednesday morning,” Fox News Senior Meteorologist Janice Dean said Tuesday. “Puerto Rico is forecast to take a direct hit from this major hurricane on Wednesday, with the worst conditions from late Wednesday morning through Wednesday afternoon.”

Tuesday afternoon saw Puerto Rico slammed with rain, and officials have warned residents to leave the Caribbean island or face death.

“You have to evacuate. Otherwise, you’re going to die,” said Hector Pesquera, Puerto Rico’s public safety commissioner. “I don’t know how to make this any clearer.”

The island’s governor warned that the storm could hit “with a force and violence that we haven’t seen for several generations.”

This, GOES-16 satellite image taken Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, at 14:45 UTC and provided by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), shows Hurricane Maria southeast of Puerto Rico. Forecasters say the extremely dangerous Category 5 storm is continuing on its course toward the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. (NOAA via AP)

Steve Harrigan reports from San Juan

“We’re going to lose a lot of infrastructure in Puerto Rico,” Gov. Ricardo Rossello said, adding that an island-wide power outage and communication blackout could likely last for days. “We’re going to have to rebuild.”

The warnings from Puerto Rican officials came after Maria’s path moved through Dominica, which left “mind-boggling devastation” on the island.

Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skeritt posted to Facebook that “initial reports are of widespread devastation.” Skeritt said he feared there would be deaths due to rain-fed landslides.

He said even his own house had lost its roof, adding “I am at the complete mercy of the hurricane. House is flooding.” Seven minutes later, Skeritt reported he’d been rescued.

Maria’s eye roared over the island late Monday night before the storm briefly dropped to Category 4 strength early Tuesday. But it quickly resumed its extremely dangerous Category 5 status.

Fierce winds and rain lashed mountainous Dominica for hours. A police official on the island, Inspector Pellam Jno Baptiste, said late Monday night there were no immediate reports of casualties but it was too dangerous for officers to check many locations.

A boat lays on its side off the shore of Sainte-Anne on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, early Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, after the passing of Hurricane Maria. (AP Photo/Dominique Chomereau-Lamotte)

Steve Harrigan reports from San Juan

“Where we are, we can’t move,” he said in a brief phone interview with The Associated Press while hunkered down against the region’s second Category 5 hurricane this month.

The government of Trinidad and Tobago said Tuesday it was mobilizing to send assistance to Dominica in response to Hurricane Maria.

“It is envisaged that as soon as it is safe, a National Helicopter Services Limited helicopter will be sent to Dominica with Trinidad and Tobago Defense Force personnel,” the government posted to Facebook. “The Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard is also preparing to send a supply vessel and to take Defense Force personnel as well as supplies up to Dominica.”

Ref.: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/09/19/hurricane-maria-on-track-to-hit-virgin-islands-puerto-rico-after-devastating-dominica.html

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