Hurricane Maria, the latest in a parade of destructive storms, made landfall Wednesday morning as a strong Category 4 storm in southeastern Puerto Rico, the National Hurricane Center said.
At landfall, Maria had maximum sustained winds of 155 miles per hour. It was the first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall in Puerto Rico since 1932.
Thousands of Puerto Ricans have taken refuge in shelters as the Caribbean island braces for Hurricane Maria’s direct hit early Wednesday.
Conditions on the U.S. territory, still reeling from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Irma earlier this month, will worsen between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. Wednesday, when the storm’s eye wall hits the eastern coast of the island.
The National Hurricane Center said in an advisory this morning that Maria was “bringing life-threatening wind, storm surge, and rainfall impacts to the island. Everyone in Puerto Rico should follow advice from local officials to avoid life-threatening flooding from storm surge and rainfall.”
Many of the island’s inhabitants in low-lying, flood-prone regions have been evacuated. Some people who were evacuated as a result of Hurricane Irma have still not returned to their homes.
Signs on store shelves asked customers to limit their purchases of water to two cases. Ice was also in short supply.
The National Hurricane Center said the center of Maria will cut across Puerto Rico and just north of the eastern Dominican Republic over the next day or so. After that time, it should turn north-northwestward, then northward by the end of the forecast period.
The hurricane center said there has been a slight reduction of intensity, but Maria remains extremely dangerous and likely will remain a large and powerful hurricane for the next five days.
Maria was a Category 5 hurricane when it passed over the British Virgin Islands. The hurricane center said a hurricane warning is also 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 surges and heavy rainfall.