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Category 5 Maria Bearing Down USVI and Puerto Rico!

Category 5 Hurricane Maria continues to strengthen in the Eastern Caribbean as it begins to bear down on the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. 

Satrad tropics

As of the 5 pm update, the storm was located about 80 miles southeast of the island of St. Croix and about 175 miles southeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico.  

Pressure had fallen to 916 mb and highest sustained winds had reached 165 mph making this a very dangerous category 5 storm!

Tropics track

The current forecast track from the National Hurricane Center takes the eye of the storm south of St. Thomas and very near St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands late this evening and overnight.  

By morning the storm is expected to slam into Puerto Rico as a category 5 hurricane making this one of the strongest, if not the strongest, hurricane every to make landfall on the Caribbean Island.  

Tropics track2

The only other cat-5 to visit the US territory occurred on September 13, 1928 when the "San Felipe II" hurricane ravaged the island on a path that could be very similar to this storm some 89 years ago!

5_2Credit: Sheila Murphy, USGS. Public domain

"San Felipe" made landfall in Southeast Puerto Rico in the vicinity of Guayama-Arroyo at around 2 PM AST September 13th with officially estimated sustained winds of 160 mph and a measured pressure in Arroyo of 27.50 in/hg or 931 millibars (It is not known if this pressure was actually measured in the eye). For the next eight to ten hours the eye of the hurricane crossed Puerto Rico from southeast to northwest without losing much strength, still with category 5 intensity when it left the northwest side of the island in the vicinity of Aguadilla at around 10-11 PM AST September 13th. The wind report from San Juan was of sustained 160 mph at around 1 PM AST before the instrument was destroyed by the winds. Stronger winds were probably felt after the instrument was destroyed, these were the highest sustained winds ever reported in Puerto Rico.
The strength of Maria currently matches if not exceeds that of the San Felipe hurricane and some additional strengthening is possible overnight.  Anyway you look at it, this will be a VERY BAD storm for both St. Croix and Puerto Rico with a 6-9 foot storm surge expected and rainfall that could reach up to 25 inches!

Tropics track3

From there, the Maria could have an impact on portions of the Dominican Republic, the Turks and Caicos Islands.  

It's too soon to say for sure whether the US East Coast will be spared.  

Thoughts and prayers are with our friends in the Caribbean tonight. 

WDRB Meteorologist Jeremy Kappell

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