Hurricane Maria developed into a Category 5 storm Monday, sustaining winds of 165 mph. According to the National Hurricane Center, Maria is expected to hit Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and portions of the Leeward Islands as a major hurricane with life-threatening floods and mudslides caused by heavy rainfall. Maria is estimated to bring between 12 and 20 inches of rain.
After Hurricane Irma devastated the Caribbean islands as one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes every recorded, the island is preparing to face the full force of Maria.
Puerto Rico was spared the full impact of Irma, but much of the island lost power. According to the Governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, nearly 70,000 people remain without power.
Rosello declared a state of emergency Monday, called the National Guard and issued evacuation orders for certain parts of the island, saying the storm could be a “serious menace.”
“We are informing citizens that it is time to seek refuge with a family member, friend or move to a state shelter because rescuers will not go out and risk their lives once winds reach 50 miles per hour,” Rosello said. “This is going to be a catastrophic event.”
After seeing the devastation that a storm of this caliber can cause just last week, the possibilities of damage to the recovering Caribbean islands are endless.
“I’m worried for my dad, because he doesn’t want to leave the house,” said Maria Reyes, a first-year student majoring in accounting whose family resides in Puerto Rico.
Andrea Llavina, a first year student majoring in chemical engineering, also has family living on the island.
“People aren’t that worried about it because of what happened last time with Hurricane Irma,” Llayina said. “My family still doesn’t have power, it’s been almost two weeks. Prepare, stock up, because you never know. It could be like the last one, or it could be really bad. Just be safe.”
Lt. Col. Paul Maynard, a Marine deployed to the British Virgin Islands, told the Press Association Maria could pick up the debris left behind by Irma and “throw it like ammunition.”
After seeing the unsuspecting changes in the path of Hurricane Irma, the possibility that Maria could too turn toward the peninsula is a very real possibility.
“It looks like blocking high pressure could force it into Florida,” Dave Samuhel, AccuWeather meteorologist, said, “Definitely something we are watching.”