Hurricane Maria slashes Dominica on the way to Virgin Islands
SEPTEMBER 18, 2017 8:13 PM
Hurricane Maria weakened slightly early Tuesday to a Category 4 storm after making landfall on Dominica, slashing the small Caribbean island with wind and rain and heading toward the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, already battered by Irma.
The storm regained intensity and is back to a Category 5.
Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit took to Facebook about 9:30 Monday night.
“My roof is gone. I am at the complete mercy of the hurricane. House is flooding.’’
An hour later, he wrote that he had been rescued.
At 5 a.m. Tuesday, Maria had winds of 160 mph and was moving 9 mph over the island on its way to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm, which forecasters called “potentially catastrophic,’’ was located 205 miles from St. Croix.
National Hurricane Center forecasters said the storm had developed a “dreaded pinhole eye,” signaling it could grow stronger. A hurricane hunter plane was scheduled to fly into the storm Monday night and could find stronger winds, they said.
Maria arrives just over a week after Irma’s eye crossed St. Martin and the British Virgin Islands with 185 mph winds, narrowly missing Puerto Rico. The Category 5 storm killed three in Puerto Rico, toppled trees and knocked out power to about a million, but spared the island a direct blow.
Earlier in the day, governments in Maria’s path urged residents to hurry preparations as time ran out.
“This is not a time for heroism,” Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said just hours before the center of Maria began nearing the island at 6 p.m. Monday.
In St. Kitts and Nevis, Foreign Affairs Minister Mark Brantely tweeted that the islands are “praying for God’s mercy.”
A high pressure ridge is steering the storm to the west-northwest, forecasters said, which should continue for the next three days. After crossing the Leeward Islands, it’s expected to near the Virgin Islands and pass near or over Puerto Rico. Once past Puerto Rico, Maria could begin turning to the northwest as the ridge weakens.
Later in the week, the storm could near the Turks and Caicos, another Irma victim, as it heads toward the Bahamas. Winds may slow slightly, but forecasters still expect it to be a major storm.