Hurricane Maria downgraded to Category 2; gradually moving away from Puerto Rico

As Hurricane Maria continues to change and evolve the National Hurricane Center is tracking its progress and projected path. (All times are ET)

8 p.m.

The core of Hurricane Maria is gradually moving away from Puerto Rico. Conditions are starting to deteriorate over eastern Dominican Republic.

According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), the storm is around 55 miles east northeast of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Wind speeds are as high as 110 mph.

Hurricane Maria expected to produce 20 to 25 inches of rainfall in Puerto Rico through Friday, according to NHC.

A hurricane warning is in effect for Puerto Rico, Culebra and Vieques, Dominican Republic from Cabo Engano to Puerto Plata, Turks and Caicos Islands and the Southeastern Bahamas.

A tropical storm watch is in effect for Dominican Republic west of Puerto Plata to the northern border of the Dominican Republic and Haiti and Dominican Republic west of Cabo Engano to Punta Palenque.

A hurricane watch is in effect for Dominican Republic from Isla Saona to Cabo Engano.

7 p.m.

Hurricane Maria is being called the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in more than 80 years, according to the Associated Press. Hundreds of homes were destroyed and power was knocked out across the entire island. Some streets turned into raging rivers Wednesday in an onslaught that could plunge the U.S. territory deeper into financial crisis.

Leaving at least nine people dead in its wake across the Caribbean, Hurricane Maria blew ashore in the morning near the southeast coastal town of Yabucoa as a Category 4 storm with winds of 155 mph.

It punished the island of 3.4 million people with life-threatening winds for several hours, the second time in two weeks that Puerto Rico has felt the wrath of a hurricane.

AP Photo/Dominique Chomereau-Lamotte

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.

Felix Delgado, mayor of the northern coastal city of Catano, told The Associated Press that 80 percent of the 454 homes in a neighborhood known as Juana Matos were destroyed. The fishing community near San Juan Bay was hit with a storm surge of more than 4 feet (1.2 meters), he said.

“Months and months and months and months are going to pass before we can recover from…

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