How Strong Is Hurricane Maria? [Sept. 20 Update]

National Hurricane Center

Hurricane Maria is currently a category 4 hurricane, and the National Hurricane Center (NHC) does not expect it to strengthen over the next 48 hours.

Late afternoon Sunday, September 17, the NHC upgraded Maria from a tropical storm to a category 1 hurricane.

By 11 a.m. the following day, the NHC announced that Maria had “rapidly intensifie[d] into a major hurricane,” reaching category 3 wind speeds of up to 120 mph.

“Additional rapid-strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours, and Maria is expected to be a dangerous major hurricane as it moves through the Leeward Islands and the northeastern Caribbean sea,” the NHC advisory continued.

Maria hit the U.S. Virgin Islands as a category 5 storm, but then weakened to a category 4 before it made landfall in Puerto Rico early Wednesday morning, producing winds of up to 140 mph and an expected 12 to 18 inches of rainfall.

The Caribbean island is still recovering from the powerful category 5 Hurricane Irma, which passed through the region just two weeks prior, causing an estimated $1 billion in damage, according to Bloomberg.

Hurricane warnings are also in place in the Dominican Republic and Turks and Caicos.

Current forecasts predict that the Caribbean islands will bear the brunt of Maria’s winds; the storm is expected to dissipate before reaching the U.S. coast.

National Hurricane Center

The NHC has issued warnings about storm surges of up to 9 feet in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and said that some isolated areas affected by the storm may receive up to 25 inches of rainfall.

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