(Weather Channel) Hurricane Maria Leeward Islands Strike Today; Dangerous Category 4 Hit on Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands Possible Wednesday.
Hurricane Maria is strengthening as it approaches the Leeward Islands.
Heavy rain and at least tropical storm-force winds are possible in the Irma-affected northern Leeward Islands, as well.
Maria will then intensify and likely strike the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico as a formidable hurricane by Wednesday.
After at least a brush with Hispañola, Maria may then target the Turks and Caicos by Friday.
It remains too early to determine if Maria will ever threaten the U.S. East Coast next week.
Hurricane Maria will strike the Leeward Islands later Monday, then will intensify and take aim on the storm-weary Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, and other parts of the northeast Caribbean still recovering from a devastating hit from Hurricane Irma less than two weeks ago.
Maria is currently located about 85 miles east of Martinique and is moving west-northwest at 10 to 15 mph.
A hurricane warning is now in effect for Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat, Martinique and St. Lucia. A tropical storm warning has been issued for Antigua and Barbuda, St. Maarten Saba and St. Eustatius.
Hurricane watches have been extended to include Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra, and remain in effect for the U.S. Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Martin, St. Barthelemy and Anguilla.
Tropical storm watches have been posted for Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Maria is gaining strength and will likely become a major hurricane (Category 3 or stronger) soon as it passes through the northeast Caribbean Islands due to a combination of low wind shear, a moist atmosphere and warm ocean temperatures.
The NHC 5 a.m. Monday forecast discussion noted “considerable lightning occurring” in the convection near the center, a sign of the potential for rapid intensification.
It is far too soon to know whether Maria will pose a threat to the East Coast of the United States, but it will be monitored closely for many days to come.