Hurricane Maria continued to lash Puerto Rico with torrential rain early Thursday morning as the storm gained strength and moved toward the Dominican Republic.
Leaving at least 10 people dead in its wake across the Caribbean, Hurricane Maria blew ashore Wednesday 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.
“Once we’re able to go outside, we’re going to find our island destroyed,” warned Abner Gomez, Puerto Rico’s emergency management director. “The information we have received is not encouraging. It’s a system that has destroyed everything in its path.”
As people waited in shelters or took cover inside stairwells, bathrooms and closets, Maria brought down cell towers and power lines, snapped trees, tore off roofs and unloaded at least 20 inches 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.
Weather conditions in the Dominican Republic were expected to begin deteriorating Thursday morning, the National Hurricane Center said. The storm is expected to brush the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic early Thursday before heading for the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas from Thursday night into Friday.
Follow along below for live updates on the storm. All times are Eastern unless otherwise noted.
5:13 a.m.: Maria could get stronger before hitting Bahamas
In its 5 a.m. advisory, the National Hurricane Center said Hurricane Maria was centered about 70 miles north of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, and heading northwest at 9 mph.
The Center said…