The storm was on a path that would take it near many of the islands already wrecked by Hurricane Irma and then on toward Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Maria could hit Puerto Rico on Wednesday as a Category 3 or 4 hurricane.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Hurricane Maria grew into a Category 3 storm on Monday as it barreled toward a potentially devastating collision with islands in the eastern Caribbean. Forecasters warned it was likely to grow even stronger.
The storm was on a path that would take it near many of the islands already wrecked by Hurricane Irma and then on toward a possible direct strike into Puerto Rico on Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane.
“This storm promises to be catastrophic for our island,” said Ernesto Morales with the U.S. National Weather Service in San Juan. “All of Puerto Rico will experience hurricane force winds.”
The U.S. territory on Monday imposed rationing of basic supplies including water, milk, baby formula, canned foods, batteries, flashlights and other items.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Maria had maximum sustained winds of 125 mph (200 kph) Monday afternoon. It was centered about 45 miles (70 kilometers) east-northeast of Martinique — or 70 miles (115 kilometers) east-southeast of Dominica — and heading west-northwest at 10 mph (17 kph).
Hurricane warnings were posted for the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat, Martinique and St. Lucia. A tropical storm warning was issued for Antigua and Barbuda, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten and Anguilla.
Forecasters said hurricane conditions should begin to affect parts of the Leeward Islands by late Monday, with storm surge raising water levels by 6 to 9 feet (1.8 to 2.7 meters) near the storm’s center. The storm was predicted to bring 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 centimeters) of rain across the islands, with more in isolated areas.
Officials in Dominica closed schools and government offices on Monday and urged people to evacuate and seek shelters.
“We should not take this storm lightly,” said Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit. “Let us continue to pray for our safety.”
Officials in Guadeloupe said the French Caribbean island of would experience extremely heavy flooding…