Reports: Hurricane Maria makes landfall in Puerto Rico with 155 mph winds
By Brian Lada, AccuWeather meteorologist and staff writer
September 20, 2017, 8:49:25 AM EDT
As of 8:45 a.m. AST Wednesday, this reports story will no longer be updated. Click here for continuous updates on Maria.
Maria continues to wallop islands in the northern Caribbean that suffered serious damage from Irma less than two weeks ago.
Maria became the second Category 5 hurricane of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season and made landfall in Puerto Rico as a Category 4 hurricane around 6:15 a.m. AST Wednesday.
Dominica took a direct hit from Maria on Monday night shortly after it strengthened into a Category 5 hurricane. This is the first recorded Category 5 hurricane to make landfall in Dominica. Tropical Storm Erika devastated the island just two years ago, killing at least 31 people.
Emergency declarations have been approved by President Donald Trump for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands with the time to prepare quickly running out.
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At least 8 deaths have been confirmed from Maria in the Caribbean as of 8:08 a.m. AST, the Associated Press reports.
Extreme winds from Maria are pounding Fajardo, Puerto Rico.
As of 7:17 a.m. AST, the National Weather Service in San Juan said the San Juan metro area will experience winds of 115 mph or greater for the next two to three hours.
Maria made landfall near Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, at 6:15 a.m. AST, as a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph.
Puerto Rican news outlet Radio Isla 1320 reports more than 884,000 customers without power.
At least two people have been reported dead in Guadeloupe after the island suffered Maria's wrath on Tuesday. According to TeleSur TV, one man fell out of a tree, and another's body was found near the ocean. Local officials said 40 percent of homes are without power, and 25 percent are without phone service.
Flooding has been reported in Puerto Rico. One creek overran its banks in Guarbo earlier Wednesday morning. On the Rio de le Plata, water has risen from 6 to 21 feet in less than 12 hours. The river is considered to have reached flood stage at 11 feet.
The French government has discontinued the Tropical Storm Warning for Guadeloupe as Hurricane Maria has moved farther northward. The Netherlands has also rescinded the Hurricane Watch for Saba and St. Eustatius.
Meanwhile, the Bahamas have issued a Hurricane Warning for the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Southeastern Bahamas.
Landfall is expected in Puerto Rico within the next few hours. Winds in Del Ray Marina, along the eastern shore of the island, have reached gusts of 99 mph. San Juan has reported wind gusts of 81 mph.
2:17am the wind much stronger than an hour ago !!! @cbsnews @themiamimarathon #triathlon 70.3 @ironmantri #puertorico #Running #nopain #runforlife #bikersofinstagram #fitness #42k #21k #run #running #postrun #physiotherapy #muscle #lifetime #coach #Personaltrainer #swimbikerun #ironman #halfmarathon #marathon @treckbike #sport #70.3IronMan #Finisher #themiamimarathon @whateverpuertorico @thegoodlifepuerto #nature #naturephotography #IslaVerde @cnnee
Maria's eyewall has reached Vieques, one of Puerto Rico's islands. Sustained winds of 68 mph with gusts up to 83 mph were reported in the city of Fajardo.
The storm is currently about 60 miles southeast of Puerto Rico's capital, San Juan, moving at 10 mph with 160-mph sustained winds.
Puerto Rico is bracing for Hurricane Maria's wrath as it is expected to make landfall early Wednesday morning. The island is currently harboring 10,059 refugees and 189 animals across 146 shelters, as of 2:30 a.m. AST Wednesday.
Wind gusts in San Juan have reached 50 mph as Maria is less than 85 miles southeast of Puerto Rico.
Hurricane Maria is less than 20 miles south-southwest of St. Croix. The island is currently experiencing the worst it will get from the storm. Wind gusts are reported as high as 114 mph with sustained winds at 85 mph.
Hurricane Maria is slowly approaching St. Croix at a speed of 10 mph to the west-northwest. As of 11 p.m. AST Tuesday, it was about 30 miles away from the island.
St. Thomas, also part of the U.S. Virgin Islands, is still recovering from Hurricane Irma as well. King Airport, which is on the island's southwest shore, measured wind gusts at 70 mph. Hurricane Maria will pass close to St. Thomas's southwest.
Video footage is beginning to emerge from the island of Dominica. The below comes from the Caribbean's Regional Security System.
The Rohisen Airport on St. Croix reported wind gusts of 79 mph at 10:32 p.m. AST before it stopped reporting. Other reports say gusts have reached 90 mph on the island.
Information from devastated Dominica is slowly trickling in. According to WIC News, 90 percent of buildings on the island are destroyed after Maria swept over the island Monday night as a Category 5 hurricane. Trees and power lines are down, and landslides are blocking many of the roads. There are preliminary reports of some fatalities, but nothing has been confirmed.
Conditions are deteriorating on St Croix, part of the U.S. Virgin Islands, as Maria approaches. Rain from the Category 5 hurricane has been falling throughout much of the day with winds gradually increasing, occasionally gusting past 50 mph.
The eye of Maria may pass just south of the island, but even if it does not make landfall on the island, significant wind damage is still likely.
At 7:00 p.m. AST, the National Hurricane Center issued a special statement saying that Maria is continuing to strengthen with maximum sustained winds of 175 mph. The pressure in the eye of the storm has dropped to 909 millibars, a lower pressure than what was ever recorded in the eye of Hurricane Irma.
The powerful hurricane may continue to grow in strength before reaching Puerto Rico on Wednesday.
At least 150,000 homes are without electricity between the French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique following Hurricane Maria’s closest approach to the islands.
The extent of the damage on the island is still unclear, but Martinique’s airport is still open and operating, the Associated Press said.
Maria continues to strengthen as it tracks across the northeastern Caribbean Sea with sustained winds reaching 165 mph. This is the strongest Maria has been so far. The storm is showing signs that it may continue to strengthen before reaching Puerto Rico.
Winds are already picking up in St. Thomas with gusts reaching 45 mph and will continue to rise as Maria nears.
Assistance is on the way for countries that have been impacted or will soon be impacted by Maria, as of 1:51 p.m. AST.
The government of Trinidad and Tobago said on Tuesday it will be sending help to Dominica.
"It is envisaged that as soon as it is safe, a National Helicopter Services Limited helicopter will be sent to Dominica with Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force personnel," according to a release from the Office of the Prime Minister.
"The Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard is also preparing to send a supply vessel and to take Defence Force personnel as well as supplies up to Dominica."
In Miami, first responders who have been working during Harvey and Irma are now heading to Puerto Rico to help during Maria.
As of 1:17 p.m. AST, at least one fatality has been reported due to Maria. The BBC, citing local authorities, reports one person has died with two others still missing in Guadeloupe.
In its 11 a.m. AST update, the National Hurricane Center said preparations against Maria's life-threatening storm surge, rainfall flooding and destructive winds should be rushed to completion in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
The storm is currently located about 115 miles west of Guadeloupe with maximum sustained winds of 160 mph.
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosello urged residents to heed warnings to move to shelters as Maria creeps closer to the islands. He warned that the devastating effects of the storm would be unseen for generations.
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio offered his support for those in the path of Maria on Twitter:
The French Ministry of Interior said that the news is reassuring in Martinique. As of 7:50 a.m. AST, there is no major damage on the island, but 50,000 homes are without power and 10,000 are currently deprived of water.
In Puerto Rico, officials have said that the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan will close at 7 p.m.
JUST IN: Authorities at San Juan airport in Puerto Rico say it will close at 7pm tonight ahead of #HurricaneMaria— NBC News (@NBCNews) September 19, 2017
As of 5:10 a.m. AST, Hurricane Maria is back to a Category 5 storm with sustained winds of 160 mph. The storm is trekking west-northwest at 9 mph as it approaches the U.S. Virgin Islands.
After making its closest pass to Guadalupe around 1:00 a.m. AST, causing winds to gust past 60 mph at Pitre International Airport in the center of the island, Maria has taken a slight westward turn away from the island. Category 4-strength winds battered the southwestern portion of the island. While gusty winds and heavy rain will continue for several more hours, the worst of the storm is over there.
The storm is not expected to make landfall - or even a close landfall - until Puerto Rico.
As of 2:00 a.m. AST Tuesday, Maria is a powerful Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 155 mph. It's moving away from Dominica and taking aim at French Guadeloupe.
The storm will impact the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico by Tuesday evening. Both islands are beginning to prepare for Maria's devastating impacts.
According to Prime Minister Skeritt, emergency crews will begin searching the island when dawn breaks Tuesday morning.
Voice of Barbados says that the governor of the United States Virgin Islands, Kenneth Mapp, said all Irma relief services will be halted as U.S.V.I. braces for Maria's impacts.
Ross Medical School, located on the island of Dominica, will hold a roll call on Tuesday at 3 p.m. at its St. James Center. The school said on its Facebook page that roll call will take place only as long as the storm has passed.
You can find more information, along with a 24-hour hotline for the school, here.
Other islands in the Caribbean are already beginning to feel Maria's wrath. ABS TV/Radio, a local station in Antigua, said they are already running on backup generators and could no longer broadcast on TV.
Preliminary reports of severe damage and destruction are coming in from Dominica as the eye of Hurricane Maria moves slowly out to sea. There's no word yet on casualties, but that could be due to the fact that emergency services are still waiting undercover for the worst of the storm to pass.
After Prime Minister Skerrit was rescued, he said in an interview the island was "brutally hit."
"Please tell the world that Dominica has been devastated… In the morning we will know how many dead there are," he said.
New York governor Andrew Cuomo has put Irma relief efforts on hold as Maria compromises travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands.
This past weekend, 100 members of the New York Army National Guard’s 105th Military Police Company and 30 members of the New York State Police were due to deploy to the area. The goal was to provide additional support to the islands' dwindling local authority's security efforts.
There is no information on when the teams may be deployed.
Roosevelt Skerrit, the prime minister of Dominica, posted to his Facebook page that his roof has been blown off and his house is flooding. He says he has since been rescued as Hurricane Maria slammed the island earlier Monday evening.
The Prime Minister isn't alone. According to Antigua Newsroom, many people in Dominica have told local media that their roofs have blown off. The entire island has reportedly lost power. Photos and videos on social media show fallen trees and landslides.
Local radio station DBS reported that the roof had blown off the main hospital, Princess Margaret, in Roseau. Broadcasters said something had crashed into the station's building; shortly after, they stopped broadcasting.
At 9:15 p.m. AST Monday, Maria made landfall in Dominica as a Category 5 hurricane with sustained winds of 160 mph. This is the first Category 5 hurricane to make landfall on the island on record.
Significant damage is likely on the islands due to the intense winds, threatening structures and possibly even stripping vegetation of its foliage.
President Donald Trump has approved the emergency declaration in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands with Maria tracking toward the islands.
Around 450 shelters have been prepared in Puerto Rico which are ready to accept more than 60,000 people.
People across other islands in the Caribbean, such as the U.S. Virgin Islands, are also bracing for the storm.
“Officials urge all those in homes damaged by Hurricane Irma or areas otherwise unsafe in a storm to seek a safe place to ride out [Hurricane] Maria,” the U.S. Virgin Islands said on Facebook.
Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina has also canceled his speech at the United Nations General Assembly so that he can return back to his country in preparation for Maria, the Associated Press reported.
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