Hurricane Maria lashes into Dominica as a Category 5 storm

The initial projection cone for Tropical Storm Maria at 5 PM Cuba time from the National Hurricane Center

"Additional strengthening is forecast during the next 24 to 36 hours, and Maria is expected to be an extremely risky major hurricane during the next couple of days", the NHC says. The storm's center was about 60 miles (95 kilometers) east of Martinique, with maximum sustained winds of 120 mph (195 kph).

The threat comes just days after Hurricane Irma ripped through the Atlantic, causing mass destruction in several Caribbean communities and throughout much of Florida. "They are going to have a direct hit from a hurricane".

The outlook for Maria this week only gets worse, unfortunately, with the NHC's "conservative" forecasts placing it at a category 4 storm by tonight and approaching category 5 status by Tuesday night.

After it passes over Dominica, it is on course to score a direct hit on the USA territory of Puerto Rico, the first hurricane of its strength to do so in 85 years. Now those evacuees and native Puerto Ricans are bracing for another catastrophic hurricane. He evacuated to San Juan, Puerto Rico - only to face the prospect of more devastation. The initial focus, he said, would be on rescuing trapped people and securing medical aid for the injured.

One military team has been deployed to the British Virgin Islands, and a British military reconnaissance team is on standby to go to the British territory of Montserrat. "I can only hope that the same spirit that everybody has - the same God that helped everybody to survive is still looking over them".

Hurricane warnings were in place for Dominica, St. Kitts, Nevis and Montserrat, St. Lucia and the French overseas departments of Guadeloupe and Martinique.

Up to 12 inches of rain is predicted to fall, with "isolated maximum amounts of 20 inches" expected to hit the British Virgin Islands through Wednesday night.

Forecasters said hurricane conditions should begin to affect parts of the Leeward Islands by late Monday (local time), with storm surge raising water levels by 1.8 to 2.7m near the storm's centre.

Puerto Rico's governor ordered evacuations Monday ahead of Tuesday's deteriorating conditions.

Emerson Anthony, WIC News reporter in Dominica, said that people are gearing up for the worst.

"My roof is gone".

Maria will take a path more to the east and north than Irma did.

The British Foreign Office said more than 1,300 troops are on standby, either on affected islands or in nearby locations, ready to help after Maria tears through. Major hurricanes are those of Category 3 and over, with sustained winds of 111 miles per hour (178 kph) or more.

Hurricane Maria, which was upgraded to a Category 3 storm over the weekend, is expected to hit the Leeward Islands Monday, BBC reported.

Residents are being urged to evacuate immediately, though this time, fortunately, it's unlikely the hurricane will hit the USA mainland.

The eye of Jose, with top sustained winds of 150 kilometres per hour, should remain off the US East Coast, the NHS said.

National Hurricane Center in Miami said the warning was in effect for an area stretching from Watch Hill, Rhode Island, to Hull, Massachusetts. But even if Maria stays hundreds of miles east of North Carolina, rip currents on the coast are guaranteed, he said.

Irma was only a category 3 when they started their trip, and weren't sure where it would make landfall.

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