(Weather Channel) – Major Hurricane Maria to Lash Puerto Rico: Major Hurricane Maria will continue to rip a path of destruction over the islands of the northeastern Caribbean Sea through Wednesday.
Maria will threaten lives and cause devastation in areas hit and missed by Irma’s worst less than two weeks earlier.
According to Dr. Joel N. Myers, founder, president and chairman of AccuWeather, “There is no comparison between what Puerto Rico got before with Irma and what it will get this time with Maria. This is a disaster in the making. All parties in Puerto Rico and the nearby islands need to know how serious this threat is. The damage done by wind gusts from the last storm (Irma) of 50 to 60 mph will pale in comparison to winds that may reach 140 from Hurricane Maria.”
“It is possible that parts of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands may become uninhabitable for weeks or longer due to the destruction that Maria will cause,” Myers said.
During Tuesday night, the eye wall of Maria brushed St. Croix, when the hurricane was a Category 5.
“St. Croix and Vieques have taken a hard hit and will end up with much more damage, and perhaps catastrophic damage when compared to Irma,” according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.
During early Wednesday morning, Maria made landfall as a Category 4 in southeastern Puerto Rico.
As Maria approached Puerto Rico, the structure of the storm began to change. The hurricane has grown in diameter. All of Puerto Rico will experience hurricane conditions on Wednesday.
“Homes, businesses and other structures will be significantly damaged or destroyed,” Myers said.
In addition to winds from a major hurricane, Puerto Rico is bracing for widespread, life-threatening flash flooding and mudslides due to the islands steep terrain and the likelihood of more than a foot (350 mm) of rain.
“Total rainfall of 6-12 inches (150-300 mm) will be common on the islands of the northeastern Caribbean with local amounts topping 20 inches (600 mm),” Sosnowski said.
“With Irma stripping much of the vegetation in the northern Leeward and Virgin Islands, there is a much greater risk of flash flooding and mudslides even if the eye wall of Maria passes by to the southwest,” Sosnowski said.
Even a brush with the storm’s outer spiral bands could cause more damage as debris will get tossed around, and any trees weakened by previous storms may get snapped.
Coastal inundation from storm surge will reach 6-10 feet (1-3 meters) on some of the islands.
Small craft should remain in port and cruise and cargo ships should avoid the area with seas topping 25 feet (8 meters) in the vicinity.