Hurricane Maria, once again a Category 5 hurricane, has its sights set on a potentially catastrophic strike on the already storm-weary Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, following a first-on-record Category 5 landfall for the island of Dominica Monday night.
The National Weather Service office in San Juan, Puerto Rico, warned of “catastrophic damage” from Maria’s winds, as well as the potential for “devastating to catastrophic flooding” from rainfall flooding in a hurricane local statement issued Tuesday morning.
A report from a U.S. Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter mission early Tuesday confirmed Maria regained Category 5 status. Maria’s center is currently 85 miles west of Guadeloupe, or 170 miles southeast of St. Croix, Virgin Islands.
Maria rapidly intensified Monday thanks to a combination of low wind shear, a moist atmosphere and warm ocean temperatures.
“Maria is developing the dreaded pinhole eye,” the National Hurricane Center said in its late Monday afternoon discussion. This is an indication of a powerful, strengthening hurricane, and just three hours later, Maria reached Category 5 intensity.
Next up for Maria, a potentially catastrophic strike on the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Prior to Irma, only four other Category 4 hurricanes had tracked within 75 miles of central Puerto Rico in historical records dating to the late 19th century. Hurricane Hugo in 1989 was the last to do so, before Irma’s Category 5 swipe just two weeks ago.