Hurricane Maria Strengthens to Category 4, Threatens Caribbean

hurricane maria
Martinique (TeleSUR– The intense inner core is expected to pass near Dominica in the next few hours.

Hurricane Maria has rapidly increased in strength to a major Category 4 hurricane as it closes on the Leeward islands. It was 70 kilometers northeast of Martinique and a little further from Dominica as of 4 p.m. local time, moving at 16 kph in a west-northwest direction.

TeleSUR spoke to Dominican broadcaster Daryl Titre at 5:42pm, a little over two hours before Hurricane Maria was due to strike land. He said heavy rainfall had been falling since 11:00am, and while there have been reports of heavy winds elsewhere on the island, on the outskirts of the capital Roseau, where he’s based, it hadn’t really started to pick-up yet.

hurricane maria
Image: Max Pixel

“In my part of the country there is still electricity, but I have had reports that there is no electricity in other parts. As well as heavy wind, as well as fallen trees in certain areas,” he said. But minutes after his interview with teleSUR English his power went off.

Titre said that Dominicans are not taking the hurricane warning lightly despite having been spared a direct hit from Irma a week ago. People seemed to be taking the preparations seriously and he was confident that they are as prepared as they could be for the storm.

The Category 4 system, has seen winds picking up speed in the last few hours, increasing from 90 kilometers per hour to 200 kph.

Related: Hurricane Max Arrives Off Mexico’s Southwestern Coast

The U.S. based National Hurricane Center said, “On the forecast track, the center of Maria will move across the Leeward Islands late today and tonight and then over the extreme northeastern Caribbean Sea Tuesday and Tuesday night.”

The Center is forecasting a Category 4 storm by the time it reaches the northeastern Caribbean Sea, which is expected to make landfall around 8 p.m. ET, slamming Dominica and Guadeloupe first.

Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Rosello has declared a state of emergency as the island prepares for a direct hit expected on Wednesday as it faces a hurricane warning. It would be the first time in 85 years that the country receives a direct hit if Maria stays on its current course.

Hurricane warnings are also in place for Dominica, Guadeloupe, St. Kitts & Nevis, Montserrat, Martinique, British Virgin Islands, St. Lucia, and U.S. Virgin Islands, while a tropical storm watch is in effect for Barbados and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

A hurricane watch is in effect for Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten/St. Martin, St. Barthelemy (St. Barts) and Anguilla.

Several of these islands suffered devastating damage from Hurricane Irma, one of the strongest and most sustained hurricanes in history at the start of the month.

The Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit, held a news conference outlining the nation’s disaster preparations.

“Our focus now should be on removing all of the potential hazards around our homes and around our communities to mitigate against potential damage to our properties and even to ourselves,” he said, adding that all health systems have been placed in emergency mode and are ready to serve the people.

 Meanwhile, Hurricane Jose continues moving along a northern path at 9 miles per hour, packing 85 mph winds 270 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.”Jose is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 3 to 5 inches over eastern Long Island, southeast Connecticut, southern Rhode Island, and southeast Massachusetts, including Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, through Wednesday,” the NHC forecast, adding that the hurricane is expected to dissipate in the next few days.

Tropical Storm Norma, which is still active, is located approximately 140 miles south-southwest of Los Cabos, Mexico packing maximum sustained winds of 50 miles per hour.

Related: Three More Hurricanes Form After Harvey Create Unease And Debate

It triggered tropical storm warnings, meaning tropical storm conditions within 36 hours for parts of the peninsula, as the NHC forecasted up to 20 inches of rain in isolated pockets which could “produce life-threatening flash floods.”

Last week, Hurricane Katia battered the Atlantic coast of Mexico and later blew itself out in the center of the country without causing major damage.

At the beginning of September, Tropical Storm Lidia left seven people dead on its stormy passage through the state of Baja California.

Mexico is one of the countries most vulnerable to hurricanes because of its thousands of miles of coastline on both the Atlantic and Pacific and its proximity to the hurricane belt.

This post was originally written for and published by TeleSUR English.