Puerto Rico is braced for what is expected to be its fiercest storm in almost a century. Hurricane Maria made landfall Wednesday morning near the town of Yabucoa as an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 hurricane packing winds of around 155mph, according to the National Hurricane Center, per USA Today. The strongest storm recorded in Puerto Rico before now was San Felipe in 1928, which had winds of 160mph, the AP reports. The last Category 4 hurricane to make a direct hit was in 1932. "This is going to be an extremely violent phenomenon," warned Gov. Ricardo Rossello. "We have not experienced an event of this magnitude in our modern history." The latest:
- By the measure of central air pressure, Maria is now stronger than Hurricane Irma, which passed north of Puerto Rico, Mashable reports. In addition to damage caused by winds and a storm surge up to 9 feet high, the storm is expected to cause landslides and flash flooding.
- More than 10,000 people have taken refuge in shelters, CNN reports. Authorities say low-lying, flood-prone areas have been evacuated, and people living in flimsy or wooden homes have been told they face death if they don't move to a shelter.
- St. Croix, the largest US Virgin Island, was hit with extremely strong winds and rain early Wednesday though it was spared a direct hit when the eye of the hurricane passed south of the island, the Guardian reports.
- Maria has already caused one death in Guadeloupe and may have caused multiple deaths in Dominica, which lost all communications soon after Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit spoke of "mind-boggling" devastation, the Telegraph reports. Skerrit said his home and many others had lost their roofs, and there have been unconfirmed reports that up to 90% of the buildings on the island were destroyed.
- The US military says forces have moved out of the way of the storm, but they are ready to respond quickly from the base at Guantanamo Bay. "We have moved all of our ships out of San Juan," Coast Guard commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft tells the Washington Post. "They have not see winds like this ever, so I think the devastation is going to be significant. We’re working very closely with FEMA, and the Navy has a significant flotilla of ships in this area."
- Puerto Rico was spared the worst winds of Hurricane Irma, but the storm still knocked out power to around 70% of the population, with 4% still without power almost two weeks later, the New York Times reports. Authorities warn that Maria is expected to knock out the electric system again, and with much of the island's infrastructure in poor condition, it could take much longer to restore power this time.
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