Hurricane Maria is the latest storm to erupt in a season of unprecedentedly violent hurricanes. It is the fifth major hurricane to come out of the Atlantic and Gulf in only four weeks.
Maria, Category 4, slams Puerto Rico
Maria, which rapidly strengthened to a Category 5 storm early in the week before dropping to a Category 4, caused devastating damage to the islands of Desirade and Dominica.
National Weather Service forecaster Michael Brennan called the Maria “horrifying” on Tuesday and said he was “running out of adjectives” to describe the storm.
Hurricane Maria blasted into Puerto Rico Wednesday morning, hurling rain and winds as strong as 155 mph at a country still recovering from the impact of Hurricane Irma less than two weeks ago. It’s the first Category 4 storm to strike the island directly in almost 90 years.
“No generation has seen a hurricane like this since San Felipe II in 1928. This is an unprecedented atmospheric system,” stated Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rosselló in a media release.
“This is going to be an extremely violent phenomenon,” Rosselló told the Associated Press. “We have not experienced an event of this magnitude in our modern history.”
Videos and reports from Puerto Rico have already described widespread damage and punishing winds. Thousands are hunkered down in shelters, unsure if their homes will be there when they return.
A Hurricane Warning is in effect for the Virgin Islands,the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas, where Maria is expected to bring “dangerous wind, storm surge, and heavy rainfall,” the National Weather Service said.
Where could it go next?
It isn’t yet clear, but it does look like Puerto Rico will take the biggest hit from Maria at this time.
The worst of the storm is expected to lash Puerto Rico all day Wednesday before moving back over the water.
“Maria is likely to remain a large and powerful hurricane for the next 5 days,” the National Hurricane Center predicted, though some further weakening is expected as it crosses Puerto Rico.
After it leaves the island, it should graze the northeastern coast of the Dominican Republic before striking parts of the Bahamas. It should then make its way into the Atlantic and start drifting north.
The National Hurricane Center’s predictions do not indicate that the storm will come close to striking the United States, though it could fling dangerous weather and hazardous surf much as Hurricane Jose has.
Jose, still churning for in the northern Atlantic, could also help keep Maria away from the U.S. coast by drawing it along its path.
Scott Berson: 706-571-8578, @ScottBersonLE