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Hurricane Maria pummels Puerto Rico, weakens with 150 mph winds

8 a.m. track for Hurricane Maria. (WPEC)

Hurricane Maria, which intensified over the past few days into a category 5 monster storm, weakened slightly to category 4 as it made landfall on Puerto Rico Wednesday morning.

The storm made landfall near Yabucoa around 6:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. Both radar sites on the island were knocked out during the storm's final approach.

In the 8 a.m. update, the National Hurricane Center reported winds of 150 mph near the core of the storm, with hurricane winds extending out 60 miles from eye. Tropical storm-force winds extend out 150 miles. The estimated barometric pressure was around 921 mb, up from 909 mb which was the 10th lowest pressure ever recorded inside an Atlantic Basin hurricane. Low pressure is considered a measurement of how strong the storm actually is. Forecasters consider Maria to be "potentially catastrophic" and capable of tremendous damage on Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The storm is moving northwest at 10 mph, with an expected turn to the north in the next few days.

Maria is not expected to impact Florida or any part of the U.S. mainland.

Here is the latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center:

EYE OF MARIA LOCATED OVER EASTERN PUERTO RICO...

SUMMARY OF 800 AM AST...1200 UTC...INFORMATION

----------------------------------------------

LOCATION...18.2N 66.1W

ABOUT 15 MI...30 KM SSW OF SAN JUAN PUERTO RICO

MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...150 MPH...240 KM/H

PRESENT MOVEMENT...NW OR 305 DEGREES AT 10 MPH...17 KM/H

MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...921 MB...27.20 INCHES

WATCHES AND WARNINGS

--------------------

CHANGES WITH THIS ADVISORY:

The government of France has changed the Hurricane Watch for St.

Martin and St. Barthelemy to a Tropical Storm Warning.

SUMMARY OF WATCHES AND WARNINGS IN EFFECT:

A Hurricane Warning is in effect for...

* U.S. Virgin Islands

* British Virgin Islands

* Puerto Rico, Culebra, and Vieques

* Dominican Republic from Cabo Engano to Puerto Plata

* Turks and Caicos Islands and the Southeastern Bahamas

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for...

* Saba

* St. Maarten

* St. Martin and St. Barthelemy

* Dominican Republic west of Puerto Plata to the northern border of

the Dominican Republic and Haiti

* Dominican Republic west of Cabo Engano to Punta Palenque

A Hurricane Watch is in effect for...

* St. Maarten

* Dominican Republic from Isla Saona to Cabo Engano

A Hurricane Warning means that hurricane conditions are expected

somewhere within the warning area. Preparations to protect life and

property should be rushed to completion.

A Tropical Storm Warning means that tropical storm conditions are

expected somewhere within the warning area.

A Hurricane Watch means that hurricane conditions are possible

within the watch area. A watch is typically issued 48 hours before

the anticipated first occurrence of tropical-storm-force winds,

conditions that make outside preparations difficult or dangerous.

Interests elsewhere in Hispaniola and the Bahamas should monitor the

progress of Maria.

For storm information specific to your area in the United States,

including possible inland watches and warnings, please monitor

products issued by your local National Weather Service forecast

office. For storm information specific to your area outside the

United States, please monitor products issued by your national

meteorological service.

DISCUSSION AND 48-HOUR OUTLOOK

------------------------------

At 800 AM AST (1200 UTC), the center of Hurricane Maria was located

near latitude 18.2 North, longitude 66.1 West. Maria is moving

toward the northwest near 10 mph (17 km/h). A west-northwest to

northwest motion is expected to continue through today, followed by

a northwestward motion on Thursday. On the forecast track, the eye

of Maria will continue to move across Puerto Rico this morning and

emerge off the northern coast by this afternoon. The center will

then pass just north of the northeast coast of the Dominican

Republic tonight and Thursday.

Maximum sustained winds are near 150 mph (240 km/h) with higher

gusts. Maria is an extremely dangerous category 4 hurricane on the

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, and it is forecast to retain

this intensity while it moves across Puerto Rico.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 60 miles (95 km) from

the center, and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 150

miles (240 km). A sustained wind of 81 mph (130 km/h) with a gust

to 109 mph (175 km/h) was recently reported at Yabucoa Harbor,

Puerto Rico. A sustained wind of 63 mph (101 km/h) with a gust to

118 mph (190 km/h) was recently reported at Camp Santiago, Puerto

Rico.

A National Ocean Service tide gauge at Yabucoa Harbor recently

reported a water level of 5.3 ft above Mean Higher High Water.

The estimated minimum central pressure is 921 mb (27.20 inches).

HAZARDS AFFECTING LAND

----------------------

WIND: Tropical storm and hurricane conditions are occurring over

the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Hurricane conditions are

expected within the Hurricane Warning area in the Dominican Republic

tonight, with tropical storm conditions expected by later today.

Tropical storm conditions are expected in the Tropical Storm Warning

areas in the Dominican Republic later today. Hurricane conditions

are expected within the Hurricane Warning area by late Thursday in

the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas, with

tropical storm conditions in this area by early Thursday.

Wind speeds atop and on the windward sides of hills and mountains

and on high-rise buildings could be much stronger than the near-

surface winds indicated in this advisory.

STORM SURGE: The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the

tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by

rising waters moving inland from the shoreline. The water is

expected to reach the following heights above ground if the peak

surge occurs at the time of high tide...

Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands...6 to 9 ft

The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast near and to

the north and east of the landfall location, where the surge will be

accompanied by large and destructive waves. Surge-related

flooding depends on the relative timing of the surge and the tidal

cycle, and can vary greatly over short distances. For information

specific to your area, please see products issued by your local

National Weather Service forecast office.

A dangerous storm surge accompanied by large and destructive waves

will raise water levels by as much as 4 to 6 feet above normal tide

levels in the hurricane warning area in the Dominican Republic, and

1 to 3 ft elsewhere along the northern coasts of the Dominican

Republic and Haiti.

A dangerous storm surge accompanied by large and destructive waves

will raise water levels by as much as 10 to 15 feet above normal

tide levels in the hurricane warning area near and to the north of

the center of Maria for both the Southeastern Bahamas and the Turks

and Caicos Islands.

RAINFALL: Maria is expected to produce the following rain

accumulations through Friday:

Central Leeward Islands...additional 1 to 2 inches.

Northern Leeward Islands from Barbuda to Anguilla...additional 2 to

5 inches.

U.S. and British Virgin Islands...additional 8 to 12 inches,

isolated 16 inches.

Puerto Rico...12 to 18 inches, isolated 25 inches.

Northern and eastern Dominican Republic and Turks and Caicos...4 to

8 inches, isolated 12 inches.

Northern Haiti and southeastern Bahamas...2 to 4 inches.

Rainfall on these islands will cause life-threatening flash floods

and mudslides.

TORNADOES: Several tornadoes are possible over Puerto Rico and the

U.S. Virgin Islands today.

THE EYE: Do not venture outside when the calm eye of the hurricane

passes over, as dangerous winds will return very quickly when the

eye moves away.

SURF: Swells generated by Maria are affecting the Leeward Islands,

Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. These swells will begin

affecting the northern coast of Hispaniola, the Turks and Caicos

Islands, and the Southeastern Bahamas during the next day or two.

These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip

current conditions. Please consult products from your local weather

office.

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