Satellite imagery shows Hurricane Maria directly over Puerto Rico
The projected path for Hurricane Maria, which began lashing Puerto Rico on Wednesday with 155 mph winds, suggests it might not make a direct hit on North Carolina next week, but the storm’s effects almost certainly will be felt nonetheless.
By Wednesday evening, Hurricane Maria had been downgraded to first a Category 3 storm and then a Category 2 storm with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph, with higher gusts. But Maria could strengthen again and regain major hurricane status by Thursday, according to the National Hurricane Center. Maria is expected to remain a dangerous major hurricane through Friday.
In addition, the forecasts go out only to Monday, and forecasters are always cautious about saying what large, complicated weather systems will do as they traverse thousands of square miles of tropical waters.
The model the National Hurricane Center posted on Wednesday leaves Maria south and east of North Carolina at the start of next week.
In Puerto Rico, Maria seemed intent on proving that a direct hit is not necessary to cause problems.
Power was reported out across Puerto Rico, with a population of about 3.5 million people. Catastrophic flash flooding was happening over portions of the U.S. territory. The center of the storm was expected to continue to move away from the northwestern coast of Puerto Rico Wednesday evening, passing offshore of the northeastern coast of the Dominican Republic tonight and Thursday and then move near the Turks and Caicos Islands and southeastern Bahamas Thursday night and Friday.
North of the latest storm to batter Caribbean islands, Hurricane Jose this week stuck to the offshore track that forecasters at the hurricane center expected.
Nonetheless, that storm will continue to cause rough surf and rip currents along the North Carolina shore north of Cape Hatteras for the rest of the week, the National Weather Service’s Morehead City office said Wednesday.
Maria left the island of Dominica virtually without contact with the rest of the world when the storm passed there Tuesday night, officials said.
Gov. Ricardo Rossello of Puerto Rico predicted that the territory could experience “a force and violence that we haven’t seen for several generations.”