Hurricane Maria, a “potentially catastrophic” Category 5 storm with maximum sustained winds of 175 miles an hour, battered St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands on Tuesday night.
The hurricane has been downgraded to a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 150 miles an hour and is currently hitting Puerto Rico.
The latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center puts the eye of the storm over eastern Puerto Rico on Wednesday morning.
The eye of Maria will continue to move across Puerto Rico this morning and emerge off the northern coast by this afternoon. The center will then pass just north of the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic tonight and Thursday.
St. Croix was largely unscathed during Hurricane Irma, which hit the islands on September 6. Most of the damage suffered was on the islands of St. Thomas and St. John. Many residents of those islands evacuated to St. Croix after Hurricane Irma hit and are now bracing for Hurricane Maria.
St. Croix is a popular vacation destination with about 50,000 residents.
U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Kenneth Mapp warned residents over the weekend to prepare for the hurricane.
“This is not a time to think about your house; a time to think about your earthly possessions. This is a time to think about securing your life, the lives of your children, the lives of your neighbors,” Mapp said ,according to the St. Croix Source.
“Some fluctuations in intensity are likely during the next day or so, but Maria is forecast to remain an extremely dangerous category 4 or 5 hurricane as it moves near or over the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Slow weakening is expected after the hurricane emerges over the Atlantic north of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic,” The National Hurricane Center said.
Storm surges could reach 6 to 9 feet and some areas could see up to 20 inches of rain.
Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 35 miles from the center of the storm and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 140 miles.
Shelters have been set up in St. Croix at the following locations:
Herbert Grigg Home
St. Croix Educational Complex
A curfew is in effect from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. The Tourism Department said it’s been working with American Airlines to try to get people from St. Croix to Miami ahead of the hurricane. It also is warning people not to travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands until the storm has passed.
Due to the impending passage of Hurricane Maria and to ensure everyone’s safety, we request all visitors postpone scheduled visits to our islands. Please continue to check with your travel agent, airline and accommodation providers regarding cancellation and rebooking policies. Thank you for your understanding.