Tropical Storm Maria becomes growing threat to Caribbean islands

Less than two weeks after Hurricane Irma left a path of destruction in the Caribbean, another tropical storm threatens to impede on recovery efforts as it heads toward Leeward Islands and is forecasted to turn into a hurricane later on Sunday.

Tropical Storm Maria formed Saturday about 697 miles east-southeast of the Lesser Antilles. The storm is forecasted to strengthen into a hurricane on Sunday and expected to swell into major hurricane status by the middle of next week as it continues its track west-northwest at 15 mph, the National Hurricane Center said in its 11 a.m. advisory.

Maria has maximum sustained winds of 65 mph and is expected to approach the Leeward Islands by Monday, bringing possible hurricane conditions to portions of the island.

A tropical storm watch – meaning tropical storm conditions could affect the area within 48 hours – was issued for Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Martinique, Guadeloupe and Dominica. Maria holds a path similar to Hurricane Irma, which made landfall in the Caribbean islands as a Category 5 system. The storm could also hit Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, where residents are also still trying to return to normalcy after Irma pummeled the land with heavy rain and gusty winds.

Thousands of people across the northern Caribbean are still without power after many of the islands were left looking like devastated wasteland after Irma. Bryan Barnes, chief of the St. John Rescue on the U.S. Virgin Island of St. John, told Fox News recovery has “been a mess.”

“There wasn’t a house that wasn’t impacted,” Barnes added.

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