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    Reports: Turks and Caicos brace for Hurricane Maria after devastating Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic

    By Kevin Byrne, AccuWeather staff writer
    September 22, 2017, 8:21:38 AM EDT

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    As of 8:19 a.m. AST, this reports story will no longer be updated. Click here for the latest updates on Maria.

    Widespread damage and power outages have been reported in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic as Hurricane Maria lashes the northern Caribbean islands.

    Maria became the second Category 5 hurricane of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season but was downgraded to a Category 4 hurricane shortly before making landfall in Puerto Rico around 6:15 a.m. AST Wednesday.

    Maria is the first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall in Puerto Rico since the San Ciprian hurricane in 1932.

    Conditions will improve gradually across Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic into Friday as Maria makes its way to the northwest toward the Turks and Caicos and Bahamas.

    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.

    Maria floater friday morning 9.21.17

    Satellite imagery shows Hurricane Maria Friday morning as it treks toward Turks and Caicos. (Image/NOAA)

    Maria to threaten lives, property in the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos
    2017 Atlantic hurricane season is far from over; US remains at risk for additional strikes
    Maria brushes North Carolina with gusty winds, coastal flooding before heading out to sea Wednesday night

    For previous reports on Maria, click here.

    According to the National Hurricane Center's 5 a.m. update for Friday, Maria's eye is approaching the Turks and Caicos as torrential rain and dangerous waves begin to wane along the northern coast of Hispaniola. The storm is now about 35 miles from Grand Turk Island with sustained winds of 125 mph.

    Maria PR flood pics 9.21.17

    Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico with torrential rain and powerful winds on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2017. (Photo/FB/Municipio de Canóvanas)

    Following Maria's devastating destruction in Puerto Rico, most of the airports were ordered to close until at least Friday. The Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, the island's largest airport, is the only one confirmed to open on Friday.

    There are also preliminary reports of one person dying in the Dominican Republic in a landslide.

    Hurricane Maria continues to barrel through the northern Caribbean. As of 1:45 a.m. AST Friday, the eyewall is approaching the Turks and Caicos, heading northwest at a speed of 7 mph. Torrential rain and high waves are threatening the northern coast of Hispanoila as the storm moves away from the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Maria is currently 45 miles southeast of Grand Turk Island. Sustained winds are measured at 125 mph as the storm remains a Category 3 hurricane.

    Maria aftermath. Road collapsed on Northside. #usvi #stthomas #maria #hurricane

    A post shared by Dan Beyer (@island.dan) on

    The Dominican Republic is bracing for Hurricane Maria tonight as the tail end of the storm is sweeping the island. As of 11 p.m. Thursday AST, 1,200 homes are affected, and 15 villages are reportedly without viable communication. More than 14,000 are reportedly displaced by the storm with 6,600 in shelters.

    Tweet reporter TeleSUR TV

    In Puerto Rico, at least 11 people have died in the wake of Maria. Three of them died in Utado, and eight others died in Toa Baja.

    Strong winds have knocked out power to almost all of the northern areas of the Dominican Republic, Reuters reported. Maria did not make landfall on the islands, but winds gusted past 70 mph along parts of the northern and eastern shores of the country.

    The hurricane-force winds brought down trees and damaged buildings in this area, although damage was not as significant as it was in Puerto Rico.

    As of 8 p.m. AST Thursday, Maria was still a major Category 3 hurricane with maximum-sustained winds of 125 mph.

    AP wind damage

    The Captain Cook restaurant lies damaged on Cofrecito Beach after the crossing of Hurricane Maria over Bavaro, Dominican Republic, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. Rain from the storm will continue in the Dominican Republic for the next two days according to meteorologists.(AP Photo/Tatiana Fernandez)

    Hurricane Maria continues to track to the northwest away from Puerto Rico and toward the Turks and Caicos.

    "Tropical storm conditions are beginning to spread over the Turks and Caicos islands," the National Hurricane Center said on Thursday afternoon.

    Meanwhile, rain from Maria continues to fall across parts of Puerto Rico and is leading to additional flooding.

    "Catastrophic flooding is occurring on the island, especially in areas of mountainous terrain, and everyone in Puerto Rico should continue to follow advice from local officials to avoid these life-threatening flooding conditions," the NHC said.

    Over a foot of rain fell in many areas of Puerto Rico with a few locations receiving over two feet of rain.

    A vessel that went missing near Vieques, Puerto Rico on Wednesday during Hurricane Maria has been found capsized, the Associated Press said. Three of the four people that were on the boat were able to be rescued, but the fourth person died aboard the vessel.

    Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit has confirmed 15 fatalities in his country from Maria, with 20 others still missing. He told ABS Television in Antigua that Dominica "is going to need all the help the world has to offer." WIC News reported earlier at least 24 people have died on the island.

    As of 1:04 p.m. AST Thursday, media outlets in the Dominican Republic are reporting significant flooding from Maria in the province of Samana, located in the northeastern part of the country.

    Dominican Republic Maria

    A person looks out from the Captain Cook restaurant damaged during the crossing of Hurricane Maria, on Cofrecito Beach, in Bavaro, Dominican Republic, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017.

    The U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy and British Royal Navy are searching for a vessel that went missing near Vieques, Puerto Rico, on Wednesday.

    In a release issued just before 12 p.m. AST Thursday, the Coast Guard said the vessel named Ferrel had two adults and children on board when it lost communication with Coast Guard watchstanders.

    A distress call from the Ferrel stated they were disabled and adrift in 20-foot seas and 115-mph winds.

    Hurricane Maria's heavy rain in Puerto Rico has been measured by NASA's Integrated Multi-satellitE Retrievals for GPM (IMERG). The data collected and highlighted in the map shows a large portion of the island received over 20 inches of rain.

    Nasa Maria rainfall

    (Image/NASA IMERG)

    The vast size of Maria and its cloud formations can be seen from the International Space Station.

    Maria Space

    (Photo/NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik)

    Dominica’s Tourism Minister, Robert Tonge, said that the capital city of Roseau is heavily damaged and severely impacted by flooding from Maria, the Associated Press reported.

    A number of people are still missing in Dominica after Maria's impact Monday night, and hurricane-force winds blew off rooftops on approximately 95 percent of homes in some towns. One of the country’s two airports is also closed due to damage.

    The Bahamas government has issued a Tropical Storm Watch for the central Bahamas in preparation for a possible threat from Maria.

    The Category 3 storm's eye is passing offshore of the Dominican Republic as of 8:58 a.m. AST. Meanwhile, heavy downpours continue to threaten Puerto Rico.

    The U.S. Virgin Islands are dealing with extensive damage following Maria, the second major hurricane to hit the islands in a span of two weeks.

    2nd Cat 5 hurricane this month. #usvi #maria #jeep #jeepwrangler #hurricane #stthomas #vistrong #flood

    A post shared by Dan Beyer (@island.dan) on

    puerto rico maria ap

    People walk next to a gas station flooded and damaged by the impact of Hurricane Maria, which hit the eastern region of the island, in Humacao, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, September 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

    Hurricane Maria is more than 70 miles from Punta Cana as it moves northwestward at 9 mph. It is barreling towards Turks and Caicos. As of 5:45 a.m. Thursday, the storm is about 200 miles from Grand Turk Island.

    The death toll has risen in Dominica. According to WIC News, at least 24 people have died after Hurricane Maria decimated the island earlier this week. At least 15 of those deaths happened at Pointe Michel. The death toll is expected to rise, but those numbers have not been confirmed yet.

    Dominica is still under a curfew from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m.

    Major Hurricane Maria is back to a Category 3 storm. The National Hurricane Center's 2 a.m. update for Thursday says the hurricane has sustained winds of 115 mph and is moving northwest at a speed of 9 mph. Maria is currently 55 miles from Punta Cana, which is on the eastern shore of the Dominican Republic. The popular tourist destination recently recorded a wind gust of 66 mph.

    As of early Thursday morning, President Donald Trump declared the U.S. Virgin Islands in a state of major disaster. This will release funding for individuals affected by Hurricane Maria on St. Croix.

    The Hurricane Warning for Puerto Rico, Culebra and Vieques has been discontinued. The storm is currently 260 miles southeast of Grand Turk Island and 55 miles northeast of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Sustained winds are 110 mph, and Maria is moving northwest at 9 mph.

    As of 8:30 p.m. AST Wednesday, flash flood warnings remained in effect for most of the island, including in the capital of San Juan.

    The weather radar on the island has been down since Maria made landfall on Wednesday morning, but weather satellites indicate that the excessive rainfall in the area is capable of producing major flooding and even mudslides on some of the steeper terrain.

    Many people are worried that extended power outages in Puerto Rico could sink struggling businesses, according to the Associated Press. It may take four to six months before power is fully restored to Puerto Rico.

    People planning to visit Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands in the coming weeks may want to consider postponing their trip until the islands are able to recover from the damage caused by Maria and Irma.

    Maria US Virgin Islands AP

    Trees stand barren and debris lays on the roadside, caused by Hurricane Maria in Road Town, on the island of Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands, early Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Freeman Rogers)

    Gov. Ricardo Rossello announced a curfew in Puerto Rico, starting at 6 p.m. AST and lasting until 6 a.m. AST each day into Saturday.

    The airport at San Juan is also expected to be closed until at least next week due to damage from Hurricane Maria.

    Conditions are slowly improving across the U.S Virgin Islands as Maria shifts away from the islands. Evidence of Maria's devastating impacts are evident across St. Croix with many structures sustaining significant damage.

    fema damage

    Damage in St. Croix on Wednesday after the worst of Maria had passed. (Photo/FEMA)

    Although the entire island of Puerto Rico is without power, some people are still able to post updates and photos on social media. Some of the damage photos emerging show flooded roads and trees that have been stripped of their leaves due to strong winds.

    The eye of Hurricane Maria has moved offshore and is located just north of Puerto Rico, but damaging winds and flooding rain are expected to continue into Wednesday night.

    The U.S. Virgin Islands, which have already been battered by Hurricane Irma, have now suffered significant damage from Maria.

    As of 2:24 p.m. AST Wednesday, here is a look at some of the top wind gusts in Puerto Rico from Maria.

    wind gusts 2:30 pm wed maria

    The entire island of Puerto Rico is now without power, according to multiple news reports. Earlier Wednesday, Gov. Rosello asked President Trump to declare the island a disaster area.

    As of 12:03 p.m. AST Wednesday, Maria is delivering record and life-threatening flooding in Puerto Rico.

    Several gauges reported record levels along the Rio Grande De Manati and Rio Grande de Arecibo rivers.

    river gauge maria

    (Image/NWS Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service)

    maria river gauge 2

    The below tweet shows severe flooding on the La Plata River.

    In addition to the staggering floods, hurricane-force winds have been reported around Puerto Rico and even on neighboring islands.

    A wind gust of 113 mph was reported in San Juan with a gust of 137 mph reported on Isla Culebrita.

    Gov. Ricardo Rosello said 80 to 90 percent of the island was without power and he expected the entire island to lose power eventually.

    Maria is the first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall on Puerto Rico since 1932.

    In its 11 a.m. AST Wednesday update, the National Hurricane Center says the center of Maria is approaching the northern coast of Puerto Rico. It is currently 15 miles east-southeast of Arecibo, Puerto Rico.

    Maria is moving to the northwest at around 12 mph with maximum sustained winds of 140 mph.

    One report states that 80 percent of the structures in the community of Juana Matos, located in the city of Catano, Puerto Rico, have been destroyed.

    The Guayama River has overflowed its banks and is now inundating neighborhoods as of 9:35 a.m. AST. Flash flood emergencies are in place around Puerto Rico.

    This aerial shot shows the inundated Hato Rey section of San Juan.

    In a Wednesday morning Facebook post, Hartley Henry, the principal advisor to Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit of Dominica, said there is a "tremendous loss" of housing and public buildings on the islands.

    "It's difficult to determine the level of fatalities but so far seven are confirmed as a direct result of the hurricane," Henry stated.

    There has been little communication with outer communities, but reports from people who walked 10 to 15 miles toward the city of Roseau report total destruction of homes, roads and crops.

    Urgent helicopter services are needed to take food, water and tarpaulins to outer districts for shelter, according to Henry.

    "In summary, the island has been devastated," he wrote.

    At least eight deaths have been confirmed from Maria in the Caribbean as of 8:08 a.m. AST Wednesday, the Associated Press reports.

    maria emergency management

    Rescue team members Candida Lozada, left, and Stephanie Rivera, right, 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.

    Extreme winds from Maria are pounding Fajardo, Puerto Rico.

    As of 7:17 a.m. AST Wednesday, 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 Wednesday, 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.

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