Powerful Hurricane Maria targets Caribbean, Puerto Rico

Powerful Hurricane Maria targets Caribbean, Puerto Rico

Powerful Hurricane Maria targets Caribbean, Puerto Rico

It forecasted Maria to follow a path similar to Hurricane Irma, which cut a trail of destruction across the northern Caribbean earlier this month.

Officials said the Federal Emergency Management Agency was ready to bring drinking water and help restore power in Puerto Rico immediately after the storm.

Dominican Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said he was left at the "complete mercy of the hurricane" after Maria tore the roof off his home.

Martinique, a French island south of Dominica, suffered power outages but avoided major damage.

Maria, for now, is a smaller storm than Irma. The worst part of the storm is likely to impact Barbuda and Antigua, and by Tuesday, Maria is expected to pass over St. Croix.

The US National Hurricane Center said the hurricane had become "catastrophic", and the British Virgin Islands was in its path. "This is an event that will be damaging to the infrastructure, that will be catastrophic, and our main focus - our only focus right now - should be to make sure we save lives", Rosselló said in a press conference on Monday. "You can not stay in those facilities".

He urged people who made a decision to stay in their homes to write their Social Security numbers on their bodies so they could be identified easily in a worst-case scenario.

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Nearly 15inches of rain is predicted to fall as Maria storms across the Caribbean, with "isolated maximum amounts of 20in" expected to deluge the British Virgin Islands.

In addition 10-15 inches of rain will be possible across the islands, with isolated areas getting up to 20 inches, which raises the risk of flooding and mudslides.

Hurricane conditions are expected to continue over the island for the next few hours.

Still, this is the first time since 2007 that two Category 5 hurricanes have formed in the Atlantic in the same season. There have been 13 named storms so far - the average by September 18 is 7.6.

While the intensity of the hurricane may fluctuate over the next day or two, Maria is expected to remain a category 4 or 5 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale, the Miami-based NHC said. As a major hurricane, Maria will push those measures even further ahead.

Farther north, long-lived Hurricane Jose continued to head northward off the U.S. East Coast, causing unsafe surf and rip currents. Furthermore, the effects of the storm could leave some areas of the country uninhabitable due to the water levels.

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