- The entire island of Puerto Rico is without power after Hurricane Maria swept through the U.S. territory today
- Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico Wednesday morning as a Cat. 4 hurricane with 155 mph winds
- As of 5.30pm ET, the storm has moved off shore and weakened to a Cat. 2 storm with 110 mph winds
- The storm is next headed to the Dominican Republic, where it’s expected to strike tonight
- The Turks & Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas will see hurricane conditions Thursday evening
- Before hitting Puerto Rico, Maria battered St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands for about five hours overnight
- Forecasters say it could regain strength and Maria could again become a major hurricane by Thursday
- So far, Maria has been blamed for nine deaths – seven on Dominica and two on Guadeloupe
All of Puerto Rico has lost power after deadly Hurricane Maria swept through the island on Wednesday – with winds that blew the roofs off homes and flash floods that turned roads into rivers.
Leaving at least nine people dead in its wake across the Caribbean, Hurricane Maria blew ashore in the morning in the southeast coastal town of Yabucoa as a Category 4 storm with winds of 155 mph.
While the eye of the storm has since moved off the island and weakened to a Category 2 hurricane, it’s expected to continue lashing the island of 3.4million with life-threatening winds, storm surge and rain through this evening.
‘Once we’re able to go outside, we’re going to find our island destroyed,’ said Abner Gomez, Puerto Rico’s emergency management director. ‘The information we have received is not encouraging. It’s a system that has destroyed everything in its path.’
As people waited it out in shelters or took cover inside stairwells, bathrooms and closets, Maria – the strongest storm to hit the island since the Great Depression – brought down cell towers and power lines, snapped trees and unloaded at least 20 inches of rain.
Widespread flooding was reported, with dozens of cars half-submerged in some neighborhoods and many streets turned into rivers. People calling local radio stations reported that doors were being torn off their hinges and a water tank flew away.
Even before the storm, Puerto Rico’s electrical grid was crumbling and the island was in dire condition financially.
Puerto Rico is struggling to restructure a portion of its $73billion debt, and the government has warned it is running out of money as it fights back against furloughs and other austerity measures imposed by a federal board overseeing the island’s finances.
Gov. Ricardo Rossello urged people to have faith: ‘We are stronger than any hurricane. Together, we will rebuild.’
He later asked President Donald Trump to declare the island a disaster zone, a step that would open the way to federal aid.
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Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico around 6:15am on Wednesday. Above was the hurricane’s location at 5pm ET
The storm is expected to batter Puerto Rico for most of the day before moving on towards the Dominican Republic
Isidro clears his yard of debris left by the passage of Hurricane Maria, in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Wednesday
A view of the facade of a building that was damaged by strong winds and heavy rain during the passing of Hurricane Maria in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Wednesday
A view of damage at a gas station in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Wednesday
Trees cover the roads in the Miramar neighborhood after Hurricane Maria made landfall in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Wednesday
Fallen trees and debris are seen on a street after the passage of Hurricane Maria, in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Wednesday
Fallen trees cover the roads in the Miramar neighborhood of San Juan, Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria made landfall on Wednesday
A car is seen flipped over in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Wednesday
Residents of San Juan, Puerto Rico, deal with damages to their homes on September 20, 2017, as Hurricane Maria batters the island
A view from the Sheraton Old San Juan, in Puerto Rico, where people are waiting out hurricane Maria on the second floor, some with their pets
In a video posted to Facebook, one Puerto Rican shows off the massive flooding in the town of Guayama
People walk on the street next to debris after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria in Guayama, Puerto Rico on Wednesday
Rescue workers carry a woman into the Emergency Operation Centre in Guayama, Puerto Rico on Wednesday
Above was the view inside the Roberto Clemente Coliseum early Wednesday morning, as Maria made landfall
People taking shelter at Fajardo’s City Hall watch as Hurricane Maria hits Puerto Rico on Wednesday
People take shelter at Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on September 20, 2017
Hurricane Maria is pictured over Puerto Rico on Wednesday as it heads northwest towards the Dominican Republic
Many feared extended power outages would further sink businesses struggling amid a recession that has lasted more than a decade.
‘This is going to be a disaster,’ said Jean Robert Auguste, who owns two French restaurants and sought shelter at a San Juan hotel. ‘We haven’t made any money this month.’
Accuweather estimated that Maria could reduce the GDP in Puerto Rico [$101.3billion] by 10 per cent by causing an estimated $10billion. The estimate also takes into account devastation to crops and a drop in tourism
QUICK FACTS ABOUT HURRICANE MARIA:
Where is Hurricane Maria?
As of 5pm ET, the eye of the storm was centered about 22 miles off the northwestern corner of Puerto Rico, clocking sustained winds of 110 mph.
What will happen tonight?
Hurricane Maria is moving northwest at 12 mph. It’s expected to graze the northern coast of the Dominican Republic tonight and into tomorrow.
What will happen tomorrow?
The storm will pass up the northeastern coast of the Dominican Republic during the day before moving towards Turks & Caicos and the southeastern Bahamas Thursday night.
Is the U.S mainland threatened?
It’s still too early to tell whether Maria will strike the U.S. mainland. It will depend on how it interacts with other weather systems in the Atlantic. But one of the possibilities is that it could strike the Carolinas.
How many people have died?
Nine people have died – two on Guadeloupe and seven on Dominica, where the storm made it’s first landfall on Monday.
More than 11,000 people – and more than 580 pets – waited out the storms in shelters across the island.
Along the island’s northern coast, an emergency medical station in the town of Arecibo lost its roof, while communication was severed with several emergency management posts. A hospital and a police station reported broken windows, and a tree fell on an ambulance.
The heavy winds and rain and the noise of things crashing outside woke many across Puerto Rico before daybreak. At one recently built hotel in San Juan, water dripped through the ceiling of a sixth-floor room and seeped through the window.
‘I didn’t sleep at all,’ said Merike Mai, a vacationing 35-year-old flight attendant from Estonia.
Mike Theiss, a National Geographic photographer who was waiting out the storm in a hotel in San Juan, told CNN that the winds sound ‘like a woman screaming at the top of her lungs’.
Felix Delgado, mayor of the northern coastal city of Catano, said that 80 per cent of the 454 homes in a neighborhood known as Juana Matos were destroyed. The fishing community on San Juan Bay was hit with a storm surge of more than four feet, he said.
‘Months and months and months and months are going to pass before we can recover from this,’ he said.
As of 5pm ET, the eye of the storm was centered about 22 miles off the northwestern corner of Puerto Rico, clocking sustained winds of 110 mph and moving northwest at 12 mph.
It was expected to pass off the coast of the Dominican Republic late Wednesday and Thursday.
Heather Nauert, a Department of State spokesperson, issued a statement about the powerful storm on Wednesday afternoon.
‘The United States stands in solidarity with the people of Dominica and all those across the Caribbean region affected by the devastating impact of Hurricane Maria,’ the statement reads.
‘The United States stands ready to work with you and our international partners to provide immediate disaster relief. We are in the process of coordinating the best possible package of assistance.
‘The recent natural disasters underscore our interconnectedness and the importance of strong partnership with the Caribbean.
‘The Department of State has an ongoing Task Force working to determine the extent of the damages, to coordinate evacuation efforts, and to provide assistance to U.S. citizens in the affected countries. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of the Caribbean region.’
Felled trees cover the roads in the Miramar neighborhood after Hurricane Maria made landfall on September 20, 2017
Homes and businesses stand in the Miramar neighborhood after Hurricane Maria made landfall on September 20, 2017 in San Juan, Puerto Rico
Water leaks into a home and floods the floors of a home in the Miramar neighborhood after Hurricane Maria made landfall on September 20, 2017 in San Juan, Puerto Rico
A resident dumps buckets of water out of a flooded home in the Miramar neighborhood afteHurricane Maria made landfall on September 20, 2017 in San Juan, Puerto Rico
Rescue workers help people in Guayama, Puerto Rico after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria on Wednesday
The hurricane’s powerful winds blew the tin roofs off many homes in San Juan on Wednesday
A view of a shattered bus stop in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Wednesday
A man walks along a street full of fallen leaves in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Wednesday
Trees are toppled in a parking lot at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico Wednesday morning
Roofs of homes lie on a street in the Cantera neighborhood of San Juan, Puerto Rico on Wednesday
Residents of San Juan, Puerto Rico, deal with damages to their homes on Wednesday after Hurricane Maria
A downed tree blocks a street in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico on Wednesday
A parking lot is flooded near Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Wednesday
Destruction caused by Hurricane Maria close to Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Wednesday
Damage in the Miramar neighborhood is seen from inside the Ciqala hotel on Wednesday after Hurricane Maria passed through the area
The Miramar neighborhood is shown from inside the Ciqala hotel as Hurricane Maria bears down on Wednesday
Damage is seen in Guayama, Puerto Rico after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria on Wednesday
Pictured left is a roof blown off a home in San Juan, Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria passed through on Wednesday. On the right is the interior of a home damaged by Maria in San Juan
Damage and flooded streets are seen after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria in Guayama, Puerto Rico September 20, 201
Previously a Category 5 storm with 175 mph winds, Maria hit Puerto Rico as the third-strongest storm to make landfall in the U.S., based on a key measurement that meteorologists use: air pressure. The lower the central pressure, the stronger a storm.
Maria’s pressure was 917 millibars, lower than Hurricane Irma’s 929 millibars when it roared into the Florida Keys earlier this month.
Irma sideswiped Puerto Rico on September 6, causing no deaths or widespread damage on the island but leaving more than 1 million people without electricity. More than 70,000 still had no power as Maria approached.
As the hurricane approached Wednesday morning, the National Weather Service issued a warning, saying Maria’s winds could cause ‘catastrophic damage’ and ‘life-threatening rainfall’ with flooding having possible devastating impacts’.
‘It is possible that parts of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands may become uninhabitable for weeks or longer due to the destruction that Maria will cause,’ Myers said.
Hurricanes tend to veer north or south of the island. The last Category 4 hurricane to blow ashore in Puerto Rico was in 1932, and the strongest ever to hit the island was San Felipe in 1928 with winds of 160 mph.
Before Hurricanes Irma and Maria, just four other Category 4 hurricanes tracked within 75 miles of central Puerto Rico in historical records that back to the late 19th century.
As Maria approached, U.S. President Donald Trump offered his support via Twitter: ‘Puerto Rico being hit hard by new monster Hurricane. Be careful, our hearts are with you- will be there to help!’
View of the damages caused by Hurricane Maria, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Wednesday
A flooded road is seen after Hurricane Maria hit San Juan, Puerto Rico on Wednesday
The town of Fajardo in Puerto Rico is seen above on Wednesday after Hurricane Maria made landfall
A view from San Juan, Puerto Rico Wednesday morning shows palm trees stripped of their fronds and almost zero visibility from winds and driving rain
People arrive to the Emergency Operation Centre in Guayama, Puerto Rico on Wednesday, looking for shelter after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria
Hurricane Maria bears down on Puerto Rico on Wednesday in this photo taken in San Juan
Hurricane Maria hits Puerto Rico in Fajardo on Wednesday. It’s expected to rip through the rest of the island for the better part of Wednesday
Strong winds bring down a fence of a house and causes destruction as Hurricane Maria hits Suan Juan, Puerto Rico on Wednesday
A flooded road is seen in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Wednesday as Hurricane Maria batters the island
As the storm closed in on the Dominican Republic, about 4,000 tourists in the Bavara-Punta Cana area on the eastern tip of the island were moved to hotels in Santo Domingo, the capital.
The Dominican Republic will likely start to feel the effects of the hurricane Wednesday night, especially on the north coast of the island. Those effects should last through Thursday morning. It’s still unclear if the storm will scrape the island or remain off the coast.
Residents in the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos are being urged to finish their hurricane preparations as soon as possible as conditions will begin to deteriorate there starting Thursday morning. Hurricane conditions are expected to start late Thursday in Turks and Caicos.
Right now, it’s still too early to tell if the storm will hit the U.S. mainland. Experts at Weather.com explain that the storm’s direction will depend on a ‘complicated upper-level pattern including a weakening Jose, a building upper-level high pressure system, then an arriving southward plunge of the jet stream into the East’.
However, the current cone of possibilities includes a potential landfall in the Carolinas.
Conditions on the U.S. Virgin Islands will improve Wednesday, after being scraped by the eye of the storm overnight.
The winds no doubt woke up many in the temporary shelter at Roberto Clemente Coliseum Wednesday morning
Adriana Rosado, 21, Jorge Diana, 24, and their 2-month old Jorge Nicolas, who live in Guaynabo, wait in the hallway outside of their flooded hotel room on Wednesday in San Juan, Puerto Rico
At the Sheraton Old San Juan, in Puerto Rico, people are waiting out hurricane Maria on the second floor, some with their pets
Ken Wild, age, 63, an archeologist with the U.S. Parks Service who was evacuated from St. John to San Juan, Puerto Rico after Hurricane Irma is seen above at the Sheraton in Old San Juan on Wednesday waiting out Hurricane Maria
A guest of the Ciqala hotel waits in the lobby as Hurricane Maria bears down on Puerto Rico on Wednesday
A photographer and police officers look as trees are toppled in a parking lot at Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico Wednesday morning
Rescue team members Candida Lozada, left, and Stephanie Rivera, second from left, Mary Rodriguez, left at right side, and Zuly Ruiz, right at right side, merge into a hug desperate to go out to attend several calls for help from citizens in need of assistance during the impact of Maria on Wednesday
Rescue team member Jonathan Cruz cries on the floor as Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico Wednesday morning
The storm’s center passed near or over St. Croix overnight Tuesday, prompting U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. Kenneth Mapp to insist that people remain alert.
St. Croix was largely spared the widespread damage caused by Hurricane Irma on the chain’s St. Thomas and St. John islands just two weeks ago. But this time, the island would experience five hours of hurricane force winds, Mapp said.
‘For folks in their homes, I really recommend that you not be in any kind of sleepwear,’ he said during a brief news conference. ‘Make sure you have your shoes on. Make sure you have a jacket around. Something for your head in case your roof should breach. … I don’t really recommend you be sleeping from 11 o’clock to 4 (a.m.). … Be aware of what’s going on around you.’
Nykole Tyson, a spokeswoman at the U.S. Virgin Islands Emergency Operations Center, said Wednesday that there were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries on St. Croix but that it was still too dangerous Wednesday to venture out and conduct a thorough check.
Maria has killed nine people so far – seven on the island of Dominica and two on the island of Guadeloupe.
No details were released about the fatalities on Dominica but one of the people who died on Guadeloupe was killed by a falling tree on Tuesday, after refusing to heed orders to stay indoors. Two others aboard a boat were reported missing off La Desirade island, just east of Guadeloupe, officials said.
The northern coast of the Dominican Republic, the southeast Bahamas and the Turks & Caicos islands are now under a hurricane warning
Maria still has a large window of movement as it nears the U.S. – with the potential of making landfall in the Carolinas
Above, another map showing Maria’s possible path as it nears the mainland U.S.
Puerto Rico was expected to get the brunt of the Hurricane Maria, according to this risk map
Destroyed trees and houses are seen after the passage of hurricane Irma and Maria in Orient Bay, St. Martin on Wednesday
About 40 percent of the island of Guadeloupe – 80,000 homes – were without power and flooding was reported in several communities.
The storm made its first landfall on the tiny eastern Caribbean island of Dominica late Monday, where Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit sent out a series of dramatic posts on his Facebook page, including that his own roof had blown away.
‘The winds are merciless! We shall survive by the grace of God,’ Skerrit wrote before communications went down.
The storm knocked out communications for the entire island, leaving anyone outside Dominica struggling to determine the extent of damage, though it was clearly widespread.
‘The situation is really grave,’ Consul General Barbara Dailey said in a telephone interview from New York.
She said she lost contact with the island about 4am. At that point, officials had learned that 70 per cent of homes had lost their roofs, including her own.
Hartley Henry, an advisor to Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, said in a statement on Wednesday that the island country is ‘in a daze’ with no electricity and little to no communications.
Two children plays at El Cortecito beach hours before the arrival of hurricane Maria in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic on Wednesday
The wind blows at Cortecito Beach as Hurricane Maria approaches Bavaro, Dominican Republic on Wednesday
A beach usually overrun with sun-seeking tourists lays empty on Wednesday in the Dominican Republic
Young men take cover as winds lash the coastal city of Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic on Wednesday
Empty counters are seen at the airport in Punta Cana on Wednesday, after the hurricane cancelled flights
Workers board up the windows of a beach home as they prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Maria in Bavaro, Dominican Republic on Wednesday
Young men take cover as winds lash the coastal city of Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic on Wednesday
Workers pick up tables and board up windows at a restaurant, before the arrival of Hurricane Maria in Bavaro, Dominican Republic on Wednesday
Men wade through a flooded Alemania Avenue as Hurricane Maria reaches the coast of Bavaro, Dominican Republic on Wednesday
A woman covers herself with a plastic bag as she makes her way to work as Hurricane Maria approaches the coast of Bavaro, Dominican Republic on Wednesday
He said there has been ‘tremendous loss of housing and public buildings’ in the mountainous island but the full extent of the damage isn’t known.
Flooding was a big concern, given the island’s steep mountains, cut through with rivers that rage even after a heavy rain. Dominica was still recovering from Tropical Storm Erika, which killed 30 people and destroyed more than 370 homes in August 2015.
Forecasters said the storm surge from Maria could raise water levels by six to nine feet near the storm’s center. The storm was predicted to bring 10 to 15 inches of rain across the islands, with more in isolated areas.
To the north, Tropical Storm Jose’s outer rainbands are approaching southern New England’s coast. The hurricane center says dangerous surf and rip currents will affect much of the U.S. East Coast for days. but the storm was unlikely to make landfall.
Jose, a former hurricane, was about 140 miles south-southeast of Nantucket, Massachusetts with top sustained winds of 70 mph.
Big waves caused by Jose swept five people off a coastal jetty in Rhode Island and they were hospitalized after being rescued.
A tropical storm warning was posted for coastal areas in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and tropical storm watches were up for parts of New York’s Long Island and Connecticut.
Meanwhile, pictures have finally started to emerge of the destruction of the island of Dominica, which was where Maria first made landfall on Monday
Officials estimate that nearly 70 per cent of homes on the island had their roofs blown off in the storm earlier this week
Dominica is a small island country in the Leeward Islands chain of the eastern Caribbean
Above, another view of the destroyed homes and debris after Hurricane Maria in Dominica
Damage from Hurricane Maria is seen on the French Island of Guadeloupe on Tuesday
A man poses with trees, which was uprooted and blown onto a beach during Hurricane Maria on Guadeloupe
Hurricane Maria brought serious storm surge to Guadeloupe, which was still under a lot of water on Tuesday
A yacht is seen crashed onto a rocky beach on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe on Tuesday
An uprooted tree covers a small house in the village of Viard – Petit Bourg, near Pointe-a-Pitre, on Tuesday in the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe
A picture shows rocks swept by strong waves onto a road in Le Carbet, on the French Caribbean island of Martinique, on Tuesday
Cars drive along a road after the passage of Hurricane Maria in Guadeloupe island, France, September 19, 2017
Hurricane Maria (bottom) and Tropical Storm Jose (top) are seen in this image provided by NASA on Wednesday
Courtesy: Daily Mail Online