Maria ramps up

Hurricane Maria is roaring into the eastern Caribbean.  On Monday, the system began to rapidly intensify.   By nightfall, it was up to category 5 strength with maximum sustained winds of 160 miles an hour.   The first landfall has now taken place.  Maria raked across the island of Dominica with the full force of a dangerous hurricane.   Its powerful eye crossed the small island just after dark.   Looking ahead, there’s plenty more warm water to “fuel” the hurricane.  Maria will continue tracking to the west-northwest on Tuesday putting it close to the Virgin Islands (albeit south).    Into Wednesday, the major hurricane will likely reach Puerto Rico with serious impacts.   In addition to devastating winds, there will be the threat of flash flooding and mudslides as the system strikes then slows down.   Minor weakening is expected over the island of Puerto Rico before Maria moves back over water (slowly exiting the northern coast).   The latest forecast track keeps the Dominican Republic near the future path with impacts likely.   Finally, then, a more northward turn is expected as high pressure weakens (north of the hurricane).   Later this week Maria is forecast to move toward the Turks and Caicos and possibly the central Bahamas before veering with a possible “curve”.    At this point, forecast models have Hurricane Maria staying away from Florida.   Please remember, though, anytime there’s a major hurricane over the general region, we need to pay attention and watch for potential changes.   As you know, this is the height of hurricane season… and Maria is the 4th major hurricane of this busy season.