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Category 3 Hurricane Maria intensifies as it eyes the Bahamas

Forecasts take Maria away from the U.S. mainland. (WPEC)

Hurricane Maria increased in intensity slightly Thursday afternoon. The storm remains a category 3 hurricane, but the winds jumped from 115 to 120 mph winds, according to the 2 p.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center.

After making landfall in Puerto Rico, Hurricane Maria lost intensity and became a category 2 storm on Wednesday.

The weakening was short-lived, and the storm returned to major hurricane status.

Forecasters believe Maria will gain even more strength over the next few days.

The storm devastated Puerto Rico with powerful winds and rain, causing wide-spread damage and flooding. The island's two radar installations were knocked out as the storm made landfall and reports of island-wide power outages and roof damage filtered out through the day Wednesday. The storm is now moving northwest at 9-mph and will pass off the northeastern coast of the Dominican Republic Thursday. The storm will then move towards the southeastern Bahamas early Friday.

The current forecast track keeps the storm well away from the U.S. mainland.

Tropical Storm Jose is stationary with 60 mph winds. It's expected to bring high surf and rip currents to the east coast of the United States.

There is another tropical disturbance being monitored by the National Hurricane Center. It's the remnants of Lee and has a 10 percent chance of developing.

Here is the latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center:

MARIA A LITTLE STRONGER AS IT MOVES TOWARD THE TURKS AND CAICOS

ISLANDS...

SUMMARY OF 200 PM AST...1800 UTC...INFORMATION

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

LOCATION...20.4N 69.4W

ABOUT 85 MI...140 KM ENE OF PUERTO PLATA DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

ABOUT 135 MI...215 KM SE OF GRAND TURK ISLAND

MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...120 MPH...195 KM/H

PRESENT MOVEMENT...NW OR 310 DEGREES AT 9 MPH...15 KM/H

MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...960 MB...28.35 INCHES

WATCHES AND WARNINGS

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

CHANGES WITH THIS ADVISORY:

None.

SUMMARY OF WATCHES AND WARNINGS IN EFFECT:

A Hurricane Warning is in effect for...

* Dominican Republic from Cabo Engano to Puerto Plata

* Turks and Caicos Islands and the Southeastern Bahamas

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for...

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

the Dominican Republic and Haiti

* Dominican Republic west of Cabo Engano to Andres/Boca Chica

A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for...

* Central Bahamas

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 Tropical Storm Watch means that tropical storm conditions are

possible within the watch area, generally within 48 hours.

Interests elsewhere in Hispaniola and the Bahamas should monitor the

progress of Maria.

For storm information specific to your area, please monitor products

issued by your national meteorological service.

DISCUSSION AND 48-HOUR OUTLOOK

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

At 200 PM AST (1800 UTC), the large eye of Hurricane Maria was

located near latitude 20.4 North, longitude 69.4 West. Maria is

moving toward the northwest near 9 mph (15 km/h), and this general

motion is expected to continue through tonight. A turn toward the

north-northwest is forecast early Friday, with that motion

continuing through early Saturday. On the forecast track, Maria's

eye will continue to pass offshore of the northern coast of the

Dominican Republic today, and then move near or just east of the

Turks and Caicos Islands and southeastern Bahamas tonight and on

Friday.

Data from an Air Force Reserve reconnaissance aircraft indicate

that maximum sustained winds have increased to near 120 mph (195

km/h) with higher gusts. Maria is a category 3 hurricane on the

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Some additional strengthening

is possible during the next day or so.

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 wind gust to 49 mph (79 km/h) was recently

reported at Santiago de Los Caballeros in the Dominican Republic.

The minimum central pressure based on aircraft data is 960 mb

(28.35 inches).

HAZARDS AFFECTING LAND

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

WIND: Hurricane and tropical storm conditions continue across

portions of the Dominican Republic. Tropical storm conditions are

expected to begin in the Turks and Caicos Islands and the

southeastern Bahamas later today, with hurricane conditions

expected tonight or early Friday. Tropical storm conditions are

possible in the central Bahamas beginning late Friday.

Strong gusty winds are still possible today over portions of Puerto

Rico, especially in heavier rainbands that are moving over the

island.

STORM SURGE: 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 9 to 12 feet above normal

tide levels within the hurricane warning area of the southeastern

Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

RAINFALL: Maria is expected to produce the following rainfall

accumulations through Saturday:

Puerto Rico...additional 4 to 8 inches, isolated maximum storm total

amounts 35 inches.

U.S. and British Virgin Islands...additional 2 to 4 inches.

Northern and eastern Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos, and

Mayaguana in southeast Bahamas...8 to 16 inches, isolated 20 inches.

Inagua Islands, Crooked Island, and rest of southeast Bahamas...4 to

8 inches.

Northern Haiti...2 to 4 inches.

Rainfall on these islands will continue to cause life-threatening

flash floods and mudslides.

SURF: Swells generated by Maria are affecting Puerto Rico, the

Virgin Islands, the northern coast of Hispaniola, the Turks and

Caicos Islands, and the southeastern Bahamas. These swells will

reach the remainder of the Bahamas today and tonight and should

reach portions of the United States southeastern coast on Friday.

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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