Hurricane Maria is stalking the same Caribbean islands that were ravaged by Irma earlier this month, as the tempest looks to put its stamp on the 2017 hurricane season, among the busiest in recent memory.
Maria strengthened to a Category 3 hurricane as measured on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale, with the eye expected to pass through the Leeward Islands late this afternoon or this evening, according to the National Hurricane Center as of 11 a.m. today.
Irma sacked this group of islands earlier this month, leaving dozens dead. The Leeward Islands, in the northeastern Caribbean, include Anguilla, St. Martin, Antigua and Barbuda, Guadeloupe, Dominica, and the Virgin Islands. Most of these islands are under hurricane or tropical storm watches.
Maria was moving west by northwest at 10 miles an hour and packing maximum sustained winds of 120 miles an hour. Based on tracking by the National Hurricane Center, the probable path of Maria would take it over Puerto Rico by 8 a.m. Wednesday, with the cone of the possible path extending to Bahamas by 8 a.m. Saturday.
Maria’s strength built as it approached the Lesser Antilles, said the National Hurricane Center, which estimated its winds near 90 miles per hour.
Maria approaches the Caribbean less than two weeks after Irma lashed the region, before slamming into the west coast of Florida. Irma was one of the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic, with winds reaching 185 miles an hour.
Puerto Rico, still reeling from the punishment inflicted by Irma, has begun preparations for Maria.
Maria isn’t the only storm in the Atlantic. The National Hurricane Center also issued a tropical storm watch for parts of the mid-Atlantic and New England coast by Tuesday as another hurricane, Jose, moved north from its position in the Atlantic Ocean about 315 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.
The eye of Jose, with top sustained winds of 75 miles an hour and moving north at nine miles an hour, should remain off the east coast, the National Hurricane Center said.
By Tuesday Jose could bring tropical storm conditions from Fenwick Island, Delaware, to Sandy Hook, New Jersey, and then from East Rockaway Inlet on New York’s Long Island to the Massachusetts island of Nantucket.