Category 5 hurricane Maria hits Dominica island

A "potentially catastrophic" Hurricane Maria, now a Category 5 storm, made landfall on Dominica late Monday and continued its path toward the USA territory of Puerto Rico. It had winds of 130 miles per hour as it moved west-northwest at a speed of 9 miles per hour.

On the forecast track, the major hurricane will move across the Leeward Islands late Monday, over the extreme northeastern Caribbean Sea on in the next two days before approaching Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands on Wednesday.

Jose passed north of the Caribbean islands and Puerto Rico last week as a Category 4 hurricane. However, residents in the already battered northeast Caribbean are fearfully monitoring the newly named, now around 600 miles to the east-southeast of the Lesser Antilles.

A hurricane warning - meaning hurricane conditions are expected to strike - has been issued for the islands of Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat, and Martinique, as well as the neighboring British and U.S. Virgin Islands.

Tropical storm warnings were in place in Antigua and Barbuda, Saba and St Eustatius, and St Lucia.

Forecasters say Hurricane Jose is now about 270 miles (440 kilometers) east-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and that a large stretch of the U.S. East Coast into New England should keep watch on the storm's progress.

Dominica opened about 146 shelters to prepare for the storm as the island was effectively "shut down", ABC News reported. It is also moving into an environment with relatively low wind shear and warm water, two conditions helpful in the formation and strengthening of tropical systems.

In addition, "major to record rains and flooding are expected to accompany Maria", the weather service said.

Men remove boats from the water ahead of Hurricane Maria on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe early Monday.

With the hurricane heading straight for those American possessions in the northeastern Caribbean, several major airlines joined on Monday to run last minute "mercy flights" from St. Croix to the USA mainland.

As of Saturday evening, max sustained winds around the center of Maria's circulation are being pegged at 50 miles per hour.

A hurricane watch has been posted for St. Martin and St. Barts.

Maria is the seventh hurricane of the 2017 season.

Hurricane Irma has wreaked havoc over the Caribbean Islands as well as the state of Florida along with some parts of Georgia as well as both the Carolinas.

Hurricane Maria Becomes Stronger Near Irma: Also, Hurricane Mania centers at 255 miles east-southeast of Dominica and heads towards the west-northwest at 15 mph. The center says risky surf and rip currents are expected along the East Coast of the United States.

"Puerto Rico is our lifeline", Judson Burdon, a resident of Anguilla, told Reuters news agency.

"Total [rain] accumulations of 3 to 5 inches are expected over eastern Long Island, southeast CT, southern Rhode Island, and southeast MA, including Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket", the Hurricane Center said.

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