Hurricane Maria seen strengthening into
major hurricane in next two days
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[September 18, 2017]
By Frank McGurty and Jessica Resnick-Ault
(Reuters) - A second powerful storm in as
many weeks was bearing down on a string of battered Caribbean islands,
with forecasters saying Maria would strengthen rapidly into a major
hurricane as it ripped into the Leeward Islands on Monday night.
Maria's strength was building as it approached the Lesser Antilles, the
U.S. National Hurricane Center said, estimating its winds near 90 miles
per hour (145 kph).
"Maria is expected to become a major hurricane as it moves through the
Leeward Islands," the forecaster said, marked by "rapid strengthening"
during the next 48 hours.
Maria is approaching the eastern Caribbean less than two weeks after
Irma hammered the region before overrunning Florida.
That storm, one of the most powerful ever recorded in the Atlantic with
winds up to 185 miles per hour (298 kph), killed at least 84 people,
more than half of them in the Caribbean.
As of 2 a.m. (0600 GMT Monday), the center of the storm was about 90
miles (145 km) north-northeast of Barbados and about 170 miles (270 km)
east-southeast of the Leeward island of Dominica, moving to the
west-northwest at about 13 mph (20 kph).
Hurricane conditions were expected for Guadalupe, Dominica, Martinique
and St. Kitts, Nevis and Montserrat, and the hurricane center warned
Puerto Rico to monitor the storm.
The British Virgin Islands and St. Martin, which was devastated by
Hurricane Irma, were under a hurricane watch, as were the U.S. Virgin
Islands and Anguilla.
More than 1,700 residents of Barbuda, where Irma damaged nearly every
building, braced for Maria on neighboring Antigua, now under a tropical
storm watch, said Ronald Sanders, the country's ambassador to the United
Puerto Rico has already begun preparations for Maria, which by Tuesday
was expected to unleash powerful winds on the U.S. territory, already
dealing with a weakened economy and fragile power grid.
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Soldiers from the 602nd Area Support Medical Company evacuate their
unit from Schneider Regional Medical Center in advance of Hurricane
Maria, in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
September 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
Damage to Puerto Rico could also disrupt the disaster relief supply
chain to other islands that were hit by Irma.
"Puerto Rico is our lifeline," said Judson Burdon, a permanent
resident of Anguilla who has helped coordinate supply shipments to
the island. "We had two volunteer flights cancel because of the
weather that is coming."
The planned deliveries consisted of plywood, power tools and screws
to close up windows and doors that remain open on the island, where
90 percent of structures were damaged.
The hurricane center also issued a tropical storm watch for portions
of the U.S. mid-Atlantic and New England coast by Tuesday as a
second hurricane, Jose, moved slowly north from its position in the
Atlantic Ocean about 315 miles (510 km) southeast of Cape Hatteras,
The eye of Jose, with top sustained winds of 90 miles per hour (145
kph), should remain off the U.S. East Coast, the NHS said.
Even so, by Tuesday it could bring tropical storm conditions from
Fenwick Island, Delaware, to Sandy Hook, New Jersey, and from East
Rockaway Inlet on New York's Long Island to the Massachusetts island
Up to five inches (13 cm) of rain could fall over parts of the area,
and the storm could bring dangerous surf and rip currents as well.
(Reporting by Frank McGurty, Jessica Resnick-Ault and Chris Michaud;
Editing by Mary Milliken and Richard Pullin)
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