A strengthening Hurricane Maria swirled toward the eastern Caribbean early Monday, with forecasters warning it probably would be a major storm by the time it passed through the already battered Leeward Islands later in the day. Maria grew into a hurricane Sunday, and forecasters said it was expected to become much stronger over the next 48 hours following a path that would take it near many islands wrecked by Hurricane Irma and on to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti, the AP reports. The National Hurricane Center says hurricane conditions should begin to affect parts of the Leeward Islands by Monday night.
Hurricane warnings were posted for Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat, and Martinique. A tropical storm warning was issued for Antigua and Barbuda, Saba, St. Eustatius, and St. Lucia. Other islands were warned to stay alert for changes in the storm. Maria could make a direct hit on Puerto Rico, which was spared the full brunt of Irma, although much of the island had its power knocked out. Farther north, long-lived Hurricane Jose continued to head northward off the US East Coast, causing dangerous surf and rip currents. It wasn't expected to make landfall but tropical storm watches were posted along the coast from Delaware to Massachusetts' Cape Cod. (Read more hurricanes stories.)