Hurricane Maria Upgraded to 'Extremely Dangerous' Category 4
Maria was upgraded to an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 storm this afternoon, the National Hurricane Center said, as islands including Puerto Rico brace for the impact.
Maria may be nearing Category 5 strength as it approaches the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Wednesday. Maria might make landfall on the eastern side of Puerto Rico and could bring major damage to the U.S. territory late Wednesday morning and into the afternoon, two weeks to the day since Hurricane Irma tore through Puerto Rico, killing at least three.
Evacuation orders have been issued for parts of Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said starting midday Tuesday, conditions will begin to deteriorate and the island could get between 12 and 18 inches of rain.
Officials said 450 shelters will be opened starting this afternoon and warned of possible catastrophic damage and a possible collapse of the “vulnerable” electrical system.
“Flood-prone areas must be abandoned," said Public Security Secretary Héctor Pesquera. "If not, you will die."
The governor said a federal emergency declaration was requested.
Most models are forecasting Maria will stay away from Florida and the United States mainland.