It’s been less than two weeks since Hurricane Irma slammed into the Eastern Caribbean as a Category 4 storm, devastating many of the tiny islands in its path before barreling into Florida. Now, some of these same islands in the Caribbean — including the US and British Virgin Islands and the US territory Puerto Rico — are facing a new, stomach churning threat: Hurricane Maria.
Maria, which went from tropical storm to hurricane on Sunday, rapidly intensified Monday, becoming a major Category 5 storm Monday night with 160 mph winds as it made landfall on the island of Dominica. Its strength is expected to fluctuate but “Maria is forecast to remain an extremely dangerous Category 4 or 5 hurricane while it approaches the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico,” the National Hurricane Center reported Tuesday.
This map below charts the course the storm has taken so far and shows NOAA’s National Hurricane Center’s best available forecast for where it’s heading. We’ll continually update the map when new forecast tracks come in.
As with any hurricane, don’t focus solely on wind speed — the storm surge and rain matter too. But Maria is currently sustaining 160 mph winds. That kind of wind can destroy homes, uproot trees, and knock out power for months. And as we saw with Hurricane Harvey, even a downgraded hurricane or tropical storm can cause massive destruction and chaos. The most deadly aspect of a hurricane tends to be the coastal flooding that comes from storm surge.
Maria is the seventh hurricane in the Atlantic this season. And while that seems like a lot, it’s happened before. According to meteorologist Philip Klotzbach, there are eight other years on record that have had seven storms by September 17. We’re at the peak of hurricane season, where the Atlantic waters are the hottest they get for the entire year. And more storms can certainly form.
How to follow Hurricane Maria
- The National Hurricane Center has a page updating every few hours with the latest watches and warnings for Maria. Check it out.
- Follow the San Juan branch of the National Weather Service on Twitter. They tweet in both Spanish and English. Follow the NWS’s Atlantic Ops account too.
- Follow the Capital Weather Gang’s Twitter account. These folks tend to live-tweet storm updates.
Here’s a Twitter list of weather experts via meteorologist Eric Holthaus. These experts will give you up-to-the second forecasts and warnings.