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    Jesse Ferrell

    Hurricane Maria cuts power, floods Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands

    By Jesse Ferrell, AccuWeather meteorologist
    9/22/2017, 2:23:42 PM

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    After killing over two dozen people on the island of Dominica, Hurricane Maria has come ashore in Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm, after devastating the Virgin Islands as a Category 5. The storm cut power to all of those areas, and NBC News says Puerto Rico might not get power back for another four to six months.* Winds gusted over 130 mph and over three feet of rain has fallen. Here are the wind gusts I've seen over 100 mph:

    wind gusts 2:30 pm wed maria

    There are a couple more late-breaking gusts (added after the image was created):

    • Isla Culebrita, 137 mph
    • Cotton Valley, VI: 136 mph
    • Gurabo, 120 mph
    • Camp Santiago, 118 mph
    • El Negro, 116 mph
    • Yabucoa Harbo, 113 mph
    • San Juan, 113 mph
    • Areceibo: 112 mph
    • San Juan Bay, 109 mph
    • Isabel Segunda, 102 mph
    • Del Rey, 100 mph

    This is what the storm looked like approaching San Juan (the radar died at landfall:

    Hurricane Maria 3D Radar 9/19

    The San Juan Airport gusted to at least 91 mph; there was a rumor of 95 mph before the wind equipment failed. Those gusts are pretty impressive, considering that only five out of 22 weather stations (METAR/NDBC) in Puerto Rico were functioning at landfall. Three hours later, only one survived. This is due in part to poor maintenance and outdated equipment, and the ramshackle power infrastructure (see below) didn't help.

    Hurricane Maria Rainfall

    Flooding rain has been as bad, or worse, of a problem. Over three feet of rain has fallen (assuming the data is sound) in some areas and at least a couple, probably four or five, river gauges have exceeded their previous record heights. As of this writing, it's still raining in some parts of the state (the NASA image above is only through the morning of the 21st). Here are the highest amounts (almost all of these are from USGS gauges):

    • BO. RABANAL RAINGAGE AT CIDRA, PR: 28.88" (USGS) (Stopped transmitting 9/20)
    • RIO USABON AT HWY 162 NR BARRANQUITAS, PR: 26.46" (USGS) (Stopped transmitting 9/20)
    • LAGO VIVI NR UTUADO, PR: 20.05" (USGS)

    There were several false reports from both rain and river gauges, caused by the wind shaking the equipment, or the equipment floating away or otherwise malfunctioning. Those included: RIO COAMO AT HWY 14 AT COAMO, PR, Rio Valenciano near Juncos, Las Piedras Construction near Juncos Quebrada Arenas Rain Gauge Near San Lorenzo.

    Hurricane Maria (NASA EO)

    *Although it has been reported by multiple national news outlets, there is some question as to whether the power is 100% out in these areas. This satellite image still shows lights in major cities, but some of those could be diesel-powered generators. How could an entire country lose power? Well, the island hasn't seen a storm like this since Hugo in 1989 and a significant portion of the trees are now on the ground. The power company there declared bankruptcy in July, so they weren't doing well to start. In my opinion, this will throw the economy (Puerto Rico wasn't doing so well anyway) into a crash and will trend towards a third-world country. The same goes for many of the other Caribbean islands that were destroyed, such as Barbuda (which is still empty) and Dominica, where over two dozen people were killed by the storm.

    The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com


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    Jesse Ferrell