Puerto Rico takes on major sheltering effort as Maria strikes Caribbean

Faith Castro
September 21, 2017

National Hurricane Center forecaster Eric Blake tweeted Maria could be the most destructive storm in Puerto Rico's history.

After slicing through the islands of Dominica and Guadeloupe, Maria, described as "potentially catastrophic" by the National Hurricane Center, was moving west-northwest at 10 miles per hour over the northeastern Caribbean Sea with maximum sustained winds of 165 miles per hour on Tuesday (Sept 19) evening.

Maria is expected to bring risky winds, a storm surge, and heavy rainfall to places that lie in its path.

Maria killed two people in the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe and two people aboard a boat were reported missing off La Desirade island, just east of Guadeloupe, officials said.

If Maria retains its strength, it would be the most powerful hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in 85 years, since a category four storm swept the United States island territory in 1932, NHC spokesman Dennis Feltgen said.

It's the first death attributed to Category 5 Hurricane Maria.

"Everybody in Puerto Rico is getting insane over there: in the store, supermarket, everywhere", one man said at the airport. The Category 5 storm was 30 miles southeast of the island as of 23:00 EST Tuesday night, according to the National Hurricane Center.

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A tropical storm warning remained in effect for Haiti, while most of the Dominican Republic was under a hurricane watch.

Charna Boquette, a Dexter native living in the USA territory, said the mood is anxious as Category 5 Hurricane Maria approaches.

"Sometimes we'll just lose water or electricity even just in a downpour", Cassie said.

"This is an unprecedented atmospheric system", he said Tuesday.

Puerto Rico is in for a long, scary day as Maria passes through.

"Maria will stay far away from Florida", Shields said. As the eye moved directly over the island, Dominica's prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, posted a desperate Facebook update: "My roof is gone".

Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful Atlantic storms on record, killed 38 people in the Caribbean and another 36 in the USA, leaving a trail of widespread destruction on several Caribbean islands and the Florida Keys. Heavy rain, strong winds and storm surge could also affect Turks and Caicos Islands and the Bahamas over 21-24 September.

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