Hurricane Maria Prepares For A ‘Catastrophic’ Strike On Puerto Rico, While Authorities Warn Residents To Evacuate Or Die

On Monday night, Hurricane Maria made landfall in Dominica as a Category 5 storm with maximum sustained winds of 160 mph. The system’s flooding was swift and prompted the dramatic rescue of Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, and the storm is currently on a path to strike several other Caribbean islands. Maria (which is following nearly the same path as Irma) is set to become the first hurricane to make a direct hit on Puerto Rico in 85 years, and even worse, many Caribbean residents have only just fled to Puerto Rico for shelter after Irma devastated their islands. So, those evacuees are now in further danger along with Puerto Rican natives.

Maria is projected to make landfall on Puerto Rico (as either a Category 4 or 5) by Wednesday night. Before that happens, it will rip through the Caribbean, including the Virgin Islands (where billionaire Richard Branson’s private island was destroyed by Irma). However, Puerto Rico is expected to receive the most devastating hit from this hurricane, and the National Weather Service warns, “Locations may be uninhabitable for weeks or months.”

Further, residents are being warned that they have little time left to prepare and, in many cases, must leave their homes before landfall:

Authorities in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico warned that people in wooden or flimsy homes should find safe shelter before the storm’s expected arrival.

“You have to evacuate. Otherwise, you’re going to die,” said Hector Pesquera, the island’s public safety commissioner. “I don’t know how to make this any clearer.

The system shall bring a potentially “catastrophic” storm surge along with possible tornadoes. And back in Dominica, Prime Minister Skerrit calls upon the globe to help his nation, which has suffered “mind boggling” destruction:

“Initial reports are of widespread devastation. So far we have lost all what money can buy and replace. My greatest fear for the morning is that we will wake to news of serious physical injury and possible deaths as a result of likely landslides triggered by persistent rains … So, far the winds have swept away the roofs of almost every person I have spoken to or otherwise made contact with … I am honestly not preoccupied with physical damage at this time, because it is devastating … indeed, mind boggling. My focus now is in rescuing the trapped and securing medical assistance for the injured. We will need help, my friend, we will need help of all kinds.”

Dominica is home to 73,000 residents, most of whom no longer have homes after Monday night’s landfall, and Hurricane Maria’s already moved onto her next targets. We will, of course, bring you further developments as this storm continues through the Caribbean.

(Via Weather Channel, KHOU CBS.& CNN)