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HURRICANE MARIA: Storm batters Puerto Rico, sending thousands into shelters

HURRICANE MARIA: Storm batters Puerto Rico, sending thousands into shelters

NOAA satellite imagery shows Hurricane Maria’s eye.

Hurricane Maria was expected to continue its path across Puerto Rico today as a Category 4 storm with maximum winds near 150 mph.

The hurricane made landfall on the island this morning, cutting electricity and phone lines, sending thousands of people into shelters and raising the prospect of deadly floods, according to The New York Times.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló had warned residents on Tuesday that it was time to “act and evacuate.” Rosselló said the island had prepared 500 shelters for people who can’t stay with friends or families and that the shelters would give preference to those with special medical needs.

"No generation has seen a hurricane like this since San Felipe II in 1928. This is an unprecedented atmospheric system,” Rosselló said in a statement. “I want to remind you that the emergency management team will not be available to help you once the winds reach 50 miles per hour. We need to keep in mind that we must also protect the lives of these first responders. It's time to act and look for a safe place if you live in flood-prone areas or in wooden or vulnerable structures.”

About 11,000 people had reportedly gone to shelters as of this morning, Rosselló told CNN, but he also said he thought the real number was higher.

On the forecast track the eye of Maria was expected to 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, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Tropical storm and hurricane conditions are occurring over the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Hurricane conditions are expected within the hurricane warning area in the Dominican Republic tonight; tropical storm conditions were expected by later today.

Tropical storm conditions are expected in the tropical storm warning areas in the Dominican Republic later today. Hurricane conditions are expected within the hurricane warning area by late Thursday in the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas, with tropical storm conditions in this area by early Thursday, the National Hurricane Center said.

Storm surges of 6 to 9 feet were expected in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The government of France has changed the hurricane watch for St. Martin, which was hit hard by Hurricane Irma, to a tropical storm warning. St. Barthelemy was also under a tropical storm warning.

A hurricane warning was in effect for the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, which were also slammed by Irma, as well as the Turks and Caicos.

As of 9 a.m. the eye of the storm was about 15 miles west-southwest of San Juan, having hit Yabucoa in the southeast shortly after 6 a.m. It had crossed the U.S. Virgin Islands as a Category 5 storm, then weakened slightly, but it remained “extremely dangerous,” with heavy rain and winds as high as 155 mph.

The National Weather Service warned that “extremely dangerous floods are imminent along the Río de la Plata,” the island’s longest river.

Sport fishermen in Puerto Rico had been voyaging into Hurricane Jose immediately after Hurricane Irma struck the Leeward Islands to provide much-needed food and aid, John Glynn, sales and marketing vice president at the Bitter End Yacht Club and Resort, told Trade Only Today at the Newport International Boat Show last week.

The people of Virgin Gorda, one of the British Virgin Islands that Hurricane Irma devastated and where the Bitter End is located, are still in desperate need of help.

“The Puerto Rican boating crowd has been wonderfully helpful. They’ve sent at least four different flotillas of support boats, 70 or 80 miles, going to Tortola, Virgin Gorda — the outpouring …” Glynn trailed off. “They were willing to rush headlong into [Hurricane] Jose to help. … There’s a reason there’s a star on their state flag.”

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