Rain bands at the outer edges of the “potentially catastrophic” category 5 hurricane Maria have already begun to soak the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported today.
Maria, which intensified again as it climbed its maximum sustained winds to 175 mph, is 60 miles (100 km) southeast of Saint Croix (US Virgin Islands) and 160 miles (255 km ) southeast of San Juan (Puerto Rico), the NHC reported in its latest bulletin at 8.00 pm EDT.
Experts from this Miami-based institution reported that Mary is approaching the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico today with “destructive” winds, storm surges and torrential rains.
The Caribbean island of Saint Eustatius recently recorded sustained maximum winds of 36 miles per hour and gusts up to 53 miles per hour. And a meteorological station located in the east of Saint Croix, Cotton Valley, reported gusts of wind of 48 miles per hour.
María travels west-northwest with a speed of 10 miles per hour (17 km / h) and, according to a probable path pattern, the “eye” of the system “will move today over the northeast of the Caribbean, this evening near or over the Virgin Islands, Wednesday on Puerto Rico and the same night at the north coast of the Dominican Republic, “said the Miami-based institution.
Both the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico suffered a few days ago the strength of Irma, a powerful hurricane that came to have category 5 and caused 26 deaths in the Caribbean and more than thirty in the United States.
Irma left a trail of destruction in Barbuda, San Martin, northern Cuba and the Keys and South Florida.
Maria will experience “fluctuations in intensity over the next two days,” but will remain an “extremely dangerous category 5 or 4 hurricane while passing near or over the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico,” meteorologists said.
The NHC urged populations under threat to “urgently complete the preparations” to protect their lives, in the face of “storm surge, rainfall and destructive” winds swept by Mary.
The islands of Guadeloupe, Martinique and Dominica were severely damaged in infrastructure, and are the ones that have suffered the worst effects so far of the passage of Hurricane Maria, which crosses the Caribbean towards the west.
Meanwhile, Puerto Rico’s industrial sector has warned the United States of a possible collapse of the electricity system if Maria hits the island, while thousands of foreign residents and tourists have sought refuge in hotels and friends’ houses in the face of the imminent arrival of the cyclone.
A hurricane warning is maintained for the US and British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Culebra and Vieques, as well as a hurricane watch for Saba and San Eustaquio, San Martin, Anguilla and Martinique.
“Dangerous cyclonic tides” are expected along with “large destructive waves” that will raise water levels between 7 and 11 feet above normal levels, which could cause “normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded.”
Maria can produce rainfall between 10 and 15 inches in the center and south of the Leeward Islands (Lesser Antilles), the US Virgin Islands and British, and in Puerto Rico between 12 and 18 inches.
The “tidal waves originated by Mary are affecting the Lesser Antilles” and could generate “conditions of hangover and marine currents dangerous to human life”.