Category 5 Hurricane Maria Powers Up for Another Blow to the Caribbean
Maria blew up from a tropical storm into a major Category 5 hurricane in barely more than a day, bearing down on Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands that are still bailing out from Hurricane Irma.
Hurricane warnings were in effect for Puerto Rico, its satellite islands of Culebra and Vieques, and the U.S. Virgin Islands on Monday. At 8 p.m. ET, according to the National Hurricane Center, Maria was producing maximum sustained winds of 160 mph as it moved within 15 miles of Dominica, an island of 72,000 people in the Lesser Antilles.
Maria was expected to hit the U.S. Virgin Islands by Tuesday afternoon and Puerto Rico late Tuesday into early Wednesday, the hurricane center said. With conditions appearing favorable for “additional rapid strengthening for the next 24 hours and possibly longer,” the agency said.
President Donald Trump on Monday declared states of emergency in Puerto Rico and in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where Gov. Kenneth Mapp suspended all Irma recovery efforts to shift the focus to preparing for Maria. The Coast Guard said it was moving personnel, cutters and aircraft in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico to protect them from Maria and to position them for quick search-and-rescue missions.
The French government declared a red cyclone alert Monday for of Martinique, telling residents to seek shelter and stay put. All flights at Pointe-à-Pitre airport were suspended through Tuesday afternoon at the earliest, it said.
The British government, meanwhile, advised against all travel to the British Virgin Islands, saying it was extending the deployment of more than 1,300 military personnel already in the region to help with recovery from Irma.
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