The islands of the eastern Caribbean are again bracing for the onslaught of yet another hurricane as Hurricane Maria rapidly strengthened on Monday morning, taking aim at the island chain as well as Puerto Rico.
According to the Miami based National Hurricane Centre (NHC) in just three hours, Maria’s maximum sustained winds strengthened from 90 mph to 100 mph. By Monday evening the hurricane reached Category 5 status with winds of 145 mph. At 10:00 pm it was impacting the island of Dominica.
“Maria is expected to be a dangerous major hurricane as it moves through the Leeward Islands and the northeastern Caribbean Sea,” the NHC said, warning that hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 15 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 125 miles.
Hurricane and Tropical Storm warnings
A Hurricane warning is in effect for Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat , St. Lucia and Martinique, while a hurricane watch has been issued for Puerto Rico, Vieques, and Culebra, U.S. Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Saba and St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, St. Martin and St. Barthelemy and Anguilla
A Tropical Storm warning is in effect for Antigua and Barbuda, Saba and St. Eustatius while Barbados and St. Vincent and the Grenadines have been placed under a tropical storm watch.
The regional airline, LIAT, has announced the cancellation of 23 flights for Monday in the wake of the hurricane. It said most of the cancel flights are between St Vincent to St Lucia, Antigua, Dominica and St Kitts.
Dominica and St. Lucia have already announced a close-down of businesses, schools, and other non-essential services while in St. Kitts-Nevis, banks have advised customers that they would be closed from midday.