HURRICANE MARIA: Storm lashes Dominican Republic, moves toward Turks and Caicos

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Tracking Hurricane Maria

Hurricane Maria brought heavy rain and strong winds to the Dominican Republic today as a Category 3 storm after devastating Puerto Rico Wednesday and leaving it without power.

The Weather Channel said wind gusts above 60 mph were clocked along the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico was still getting heavy, soaking rains today even though the storm was pulling away.

The storm was expected to strengthen as it moved toward the Turks and Caicos. Hurricane warnings were issued for those islands and the southeastern Bahamas. Conditions were expected to deteriorate in those areas later today and tonight.

The Weather Channel also said the northern and eastern Dominican Republic, as well as the Turks and Caicos and the southeast Bahamas, were forecast to pick up 8 to 16 inches of rain, with isolated 20-inch amounts.

The storm could miss the U.S. mainland. The National Hurricane Center’s current storm track shows it moving north on a path that would keep it off the East Coast.

In Puerto Rico it was difficult for officials to assess the damage from the first Category 4 storm to hit the island directly since 1932.

"Today, we're working on that assessment, evaluating what in terms of money what is the real cost of the aftermath of the hurricane," Carlos Mercader, a Washington-based spokesman for Gov. Ricardo Rosello, told the Washington Post.

"But I can tell you, from what I've been hearing from the governor, there's total devastation."

NBC News said it could take six months to restore power to the island.

The storm toppled trees, shattered windows and ripped roofs and doors off homes. Widespread flooding blocked many highways and streets on Thursday, NBC said.

San Juan resident Heidi Roque, 21, told NBC News her home had shattered windows, damaged fences and broken doors.

She feared for her grandmother, who lives alone in the town of Trujillo Alto, because she has no power or water. Roque's family hadn't from her since early Wednesday.

"I fear Puerto Rico won't be the same when this is over. Not after this storm," Roque said, choking back tears. "This is the first time our family was faced with something so monstrous, we didn't know how to react.”

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