Hurricane Maria Is Category 2, Threatening Caribbean Islands

Could hit US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico this week
September 18, 2017 Updated: September 18, 2017    

Hurricane Maria is strengthening fast. It is now a Category 2 storm with winds of 110 mph, according to a post from the U.S. National Hurricane Center in an 8 a.m. post on Monday, Sept. 18.

Maria is approaching the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean, and it may strengthen to a Category 4 storm before hitting Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, according to forecasters. The Weather Channel says it will hit those already storm-weary areas by Wednesday.

Maria will then target the Turks and Caicos Friday, according to the channel.

It’s unclear if Maria will threaten the U.S. East Coast, which, if it does, would hit next week.

( NHC / NOAA)
( NHC / NOAA)

Later on Monday, Maria will strike the Lesser Antilles islands.

According to the NHC, Maria will “become a major (Category 3 or greater) later today.”

( NHC / NOAA)
( NHC / NOAA)

Maria is located about 85 miles east of the island of Martinique, and it’s 120 miles east-southeast of Dominica.

The government of St. Lucia has issued a hurricane warning for St. Lucia, according to the NHC.

Animation of Hurricane Maria (NOAA)
Animation of Hurricane Maria (NOAA)

And a tropical storm warning was issued for St. Maarten, the agency stated.

A Hurricane Warning is in effect for the following:

– Guadeloupe
– Dominica
– St. Kitts, Nevis, and Montserrat
– Martinique
– St. Lucia

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for the following:
– Antigua and Barbuda
– Saba and St. Eustatius
– St. Maarten

A Hurricane Watch is in effect for the following:
– Puerto Rico, Vieques, and Culebra
– U.S. Virgin Islands
– British Virgin Islands
– Saba and St. Eustatius
– St. Maarten
– St. Martin and St. Barthelemy
– Anguilla

A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for the following:
– Barbados
– St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Maria is approaching the eastern Caribbean less than two weeks after Irma hammered the region before overrunning Florida.

An aireal view shows damage after hurricane Irma passed over Providenciales on the Turks and Caicos Islands, September 11, 2017. (Cpl Darren Legg RLC/Ministry of Defence handout via REUTERS)
An aireal view shows damage after hurricane Irma passed over Providenciales on the Turks and Caicos Islands, Sept. 11, 2017. (Cpl Darren Legg RLC/Ministry of Defence handout via REUTERS)

That storm, one of the most powerful ever recorded in the Atlantic, with winds up to 185 miles per hour (298 kph), killed at least 84 people, more than half of them in the Caribbean.

Reuters contributed to this report.