MARIA: Moving away from Puerto Rico, flooding, damage widespread

By News 13 Weather Experts and Digital Producers, Team Coverage
Last Updated: Wednesday, September 20, 2017, 11:05 PM EDT

Maria lashed Puerto Rico with 140 mph winds Wednesday, leaving damage and widespread power outages across the island. The hurricane has lost some of its strength, but devastating flash flooding is now a bigger concern.

Maria

Maria made landfall Wednesday morning with catastrophic wind. The forecast track keeps it well to the east of Florida. The core of the hurricane is moving away from Puerto Rico, and conditions are getting worse over the eastern Dominican Republic.

As people waited the storm out out in shelters or took cover inside stairwells, bathrooms and closets, Maria brought down cell towers and power lines, snapped trees and unloaded at least 20 inches (50 centimeters) of rain.

Widespread flooding was reported, with dozens of cars half-submerged in some neighborhoods and many streets turned into rivers. People calling local radio stations reported that doors were being torn off their hinges and a water tank flew away.

Puerto Rico faced what officials said could be the strongest hurricane to ever hit the U.S. territory as they warned it would decimate the power company's crumbling infrastructure and force the government to rebuild dozens of communities.

The mayor of the city of Catano on the northern coast of Puerto Rico said about 80 percent of the homes in at least one neighborhood were destroyed.

Maria's winds are now down to 110 mph. 

As of 11 p.m. AST, the center of Hurricane Maria was located about 55 miles northeast of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, near latitude 19.2 north and longitude 67.9 west.

Maria is moving toward the northwest at 9 mph, and this general motion with a gradual decrease in forward speed is expected through Thursday night. On the forecast track, the center of Maria will continue to move away from the northwestern coast of Puerto Rico this evening.

The center will then pass offshore of the northeastern coast of the Dominican Republic tonight and Thursday and then move near the Turks and Caicos Islands and southeastern Bahamas Thursday night and Friday.

Hurricane-force winds extend 60 miles from the storm's center, and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 150 miles.

The following advisories are 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 Punta Palenque

A hurricane watch is in effect for:

  • Dominican Republic from Isla Saona to Cabo Engano

An official at the U.S. Virgin Islands Emergency Operations Center says there are no immediate reports of deaths or injuries on St. Croix from Hurricane Maria but a full assessment hasn't been completed.  Spokeswoman Nykole Tyson says the storm tore many roofs off of buildings and downed trees across the island.

Winds were still strong Wednesday more than five hours after the eye passed close to the island, making it too dangerous for people to venture out and conduct a thorough check.

Some people were trapped in their bathrooms or fled to their cars after losing the roof on their home. Tyson says the Department of Public Health building where she spent the night shook during the storm, which she called "frightening."

Jose

Tropical Storm Jose's latest positioning is nearly 150 miles southeast of Nantucket, Massachusetts. Jose is traveling northeast, but it is forecast to head westward and stay offshore of southern New England. 

Its impacts on land will be primarily rough surf and high wind, along with elevated swells and hazardous seas for offshore boating. Tropical storm-force winds extend outward up to 205 miles from the center.

A tropical storm warning is in effect for:

  • Woods Hole to Sagamore Beach, including Cape Cod
  • Block Island
  • Martha's Vineyard
  • Nantucket

Elsewhere in the Atlantic, the remnants of Lee has are being monitored for restrengthening, but it will be traveling north and will not impact land.

The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season runs through Nov. 30.

News 13 Interactive StormTracker

The Associated Press contributed to this story.