Hurricane Maria strengthens to Category 5, lashes Dominica

ROSEAU, Dominica (WATE) — Hurricane Maria, which pounded the small island of Dominica with catastrophic winds overnight, continues to charge into the eastern Caribbean that will threaten islands already devastated by Hurricane Irma and holds the possibility of a direct hit on Puerto Rico.

WATE 6 Storm Team Meteorologist Ken Weathers said the hurricane still has 160 mile per hour winds as of Wednesday afternoon which is Category 5 strength. It is still forecast to make landfall later tonight-early Wednesday along Puerto Rico’s southeastern coast.

“The most recent forecast model guidence continues to keep Maria away from the East coast of Florida, but it is still way to way too early to give an all clear to anyone along the Atlantic seaboard at this time,” said Ken Weathers. “Jose, which continues to spin off the Northeast coast could still have some impact on Maria’s track but by how much, that is too earl to tell as well.”

Dominica’s Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, posted multiple updates on his Facebook page that indicated his home was damaged while he sheltered inside, and the situation was so bad, he required a rescue.

“So far we have lost all what money can buy and replace. My greatest fear for the morning is that we will wake to news of serious physical injury and possible deaths as a result of likely landslides triggered by persistent rains,” said Skerrit.

Skerrit said he is hitting the road as soon as the “all clear” is given in search of the injured and those trapped in the rubble. He asked other nations and organizations for help.

“I am honestly not preoccupied with physical damage at this time, because it is devastating…indeed, mind boggling. My focus now is in rescuing the trapped and securing medical assistance for the injured.”

Police Inspector Pellam Jon Baptiste told the Associated Press it was still too dangerous for officers to do a full assessment. “Where we are, we can’t move,” he said.

Ken Weathers says the hurricane is still moving west-northwest at 10 miles per hour, with the track still expected to approach the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico within the next 24 hours. Hurricane Maria would be the first Category 4 or greater hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in 85 years.

Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rosselló, has declared a state of emergency ahead of that landfall, which will likely happen Wednesday. Trent Magill says a hurricane warning from the NHC remains in effect for Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Montserrat, the US and British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Culebra, and Vieques.

US President Donald Trump issued an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico for federal assistance to augment the territory’s storm-response initiatives.

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