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Category 5 Hurricane Maria may hit Puerto Rico on Wednesday

The 11 a.m. advisory on Hurricane Maria. (WPEC)

Hurricane Maria maintained its category 5 muscle with 160 mph winds and is poised to hit Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands on Wednesday.

The 2 p.m. advisory put the potentially catastrophic hurricane on a west, northwest track toward the Virgin Island and Puerto Rico.

Forecasters say preparations for life-threatening storm surge, rainfall, flooding and destructive winds should be done by now.

Experts believe the storm may change slightly in intensity but Maria is expected to stay a category 4 or 5 hurricane until it moves over or near the Virgin Island and Puerto Rico.

Latest Bulletin from the National Hurricane Center:

POTENTIALLY CATASTROPHIC HURRICANE MARIA MOVING ACROSS THE

NORTHEASTERN CARIBBEAN TOWARD THE VIRGIN ISLANDS AND PUERTO RICO...

...PREPARATIONS AGAINST LIFE-THREATENING STORM SURGE AND RAINFALL

FLOODING AND DESTRUCTIVE WINDS SHOULD BE RUSHED TO COMPLETION...

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

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

LOCATION...16.6N 63.6W

ABOUT 110 MI...175 KM SE OF ST. CROIX

ABOUT 140 MI...225 KM W OF GUADELOUPE

MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...160 MPH...260 KM/H

PRESENT MOVEMENT...WNW OR 300 DEGREES AT 10 MPH...17 KM/H

MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...927 MB...27.37 INCHES

WATCHES AND WARNINGS

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

CHANGES WITH THIS ADVISORY:

The Meteorological Service of the Dominican Republic has issued a

Hurricane Warning from Cabo Engano to Puerto Plata, a Tropical

Storm Warning west of Puerto Plata to the northern border of the

Dominican Republic and Haiti, and a Tropical Storm Warning west of

Cabo Engano to Punta Palenque.

The Government of France has changed the Hurricane Warning for

Guadeloupe to a Tropical Storm Warning, and has discontinued the

Tropical Storm Warning for Martinique.

SUMMARY OF WATCHES AND WARNINGS IN EFFECT:

A Hurricane Warning is in effect for...

* Dominica

* St. Kitts, Nevis, and Montserrat

* U.S. Virgin Islands

* British Virgin Islands

* Puerto Rico, Culebra, and Vieques

* Cabo Engano to Puerto Plata

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for...

* Antigua and Barbuda

* Saba and St. Eustatius

* St. Maarten

* Anguilla

* Guadeloupe

* West of Puerto Plata to the northern border of the Dominican

Republic and Haiti

* West of Cabo Engano to Punta Palenque

A Hurricane Watch is in effect for...

* Saba and St. Eustatius

* St. Maarten

* St. Martin and St. Barthelemy

* Anguilla

* 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, the southeastern Bahamas, and

the Turks and Caicos Islands should monitor the progress of Maria.

Additional watches and warnings may be required today.

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

near latitude 16.6 North, longitude 63.6 West. Maria is moving

toward the west-northwest near 10 mph (17 km/h), and this general

motion is expected to continue through Wednesday night. On the

forecast track, the eye of Maria will move over the northeastern

Caribbean Sea today, and then pass near or over the Virgin Islands

overnight and Puerto Rico on Wednesday.

Maximum sustained winds are near 160 mph (260 km/h) with higher

gusts. Maria is a potentially catastrophic category 5 hurricane on

the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Some fluctuations in

intensity are likely during the next day or two, but Maria is

forecast to remain an extremely dangerous category 4 or 5 hurricane

until it moves near or over the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 35 miles (55 km) from

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

140 miles (220 km). During the past few hours, the eye passed just

north of NOAA buoy 42060, which reported 1-min average winds of

85 mph (137 km/h) and a wind gust of 94 mph (151 km/h).

The estimated minimum central pressure is 927 mb (27.37 inches).

NOAA buoy 42060 reported a minimum pressure of 955.7 mb

(28.22 inches) as the eye passed.

HAZARDS AFFECTING LAND

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

WIND: Hurricane conditions will continue in portions of the

hurricane warning area in the Leeward Islands this afternoon,

and spread into the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico tonight and

Wednesday. Tropical storm conditions are occuring over the

remainder of the Leeward Islands, and should spread into the Virgin

Islands and Puerto Rico starting in the next several hours.

Hurricane conditions are expected within the hurricane warning area

in the Dominican Republic late Wednesday, with tropical storm

conditions expected by early Wednesday. Tropical storm conditions

are expected in the tropical storm warning areas in the Dominican

Republic on Wednesday.

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: A dangerous storm surge accompanied by large and

destructive waves will raise water levels by as much as 7 to 11

feet above normal tide levels in the hurricane warning area near

where the center of Maria moves across the Leeward Islands and the

British Virgin Islands.

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.

RAINFALL: Maria is expected to produce the following rain

accumulations through Thursday:

Central and southern Leeward Islands...10 to 15 inches, isolated 20

inches.

U.S. and British Virgin Islands...10 to 15 inches, isolated 20

inches.

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

Northern Leeward Islands from Barbuda to Anguilla...4 to 8 inches,

isolated 10 inches.

Windward Islands and Barbados...2 to 4 inches, isolated 6 inches.

Eastern Dominican Republic...4 to 8 inches, isolated 12 inches.

Rainfall on all of these islands will cause life-threatening flash

floods and mudslides.

SURF: Swells generated by Maria are affecting the Lesser Antilles.

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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