It’s happening again.
Residents of the Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and many others are back on hurricane watch, now for Category 5 Hurricane Maria, packing winds of 160 miles per hour as the storm roars towards already-battered islands.
They’d just barely begun to catch their breath after being slammed around by Hurricane Irma, the recent Category 5 hurricane that left at least 37 dead and billions of dollars’ worth of damage. In the video below, the Netherlands Ministry of Defense documented some of the damage to houses, boats in ports, and the landscape on the island of St. Maarten after Hurricane Irma on September 7, 2017 during a helicopter flight after the storm:
Now Maria is heading straight for Dominica and Martinique, and as well as the islands of Guadeloupe, St. Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, the latter two of which were nearly completely destroyed by Irma. The storm was packing maximum sustained winds of 130 miles per hour (215 kmh) at 6 pm Monday evening, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center, but less than three hours later, that rose to 160 miles per hour.
“Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion,” the U.S. National Hurricane Center warned.
“Catastrophic winds” are expected in Puerto Rico beginning Tuesday afternoon. “Locations may be uninhabitable for weeks or months,” according to the National Weather Service in Puerto Rico, which added, “Major to record rains and flooding are expected to accompany Maria.”
U.S. President Donald Trump declared on Monday (Sept. 18) “that an emergency exists in the territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands and ordered Federal assistance to supplement the response efforts of the territory due to the emergency conditions resulting from Hurricane Maria beginning on September 16, 2017, and continuing.”
The French territory of Guadeloupe was also preparing for the worst, with schools, businesses and government buildings already all closed down as well. Low-lying areas are to be evacuated, according to AFP.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Jose was still moving north along the East Coast of the United States as well, but weakening with “only” 75 mile per hour winds by Monday evening. Nevertheless, the NHC warned the storm was still “holding steady in strength with dangerous surf and rip currents expected to continue along the East Coast of the United States.”
On average, 12 tropical storms, six of which become hurricanes, form over the Atlantic Ocean, Carribean Sea or Gulf of Mexico during the hurricane season which runs from June 1 to November 30 each year. Over a typical 2-year period, the U.S. coastline is struck by an average of 3 hurricanes, 1 of which is classified as a major hurricane (winds of 111 mph or greater), according to the NHC.