As feared, Hurricane Maria rapidly strengthened Monday as it took aim at Puerto Rico and islands left in ruins by Hurricane Irma.
Maria intensified to a Category 3 hurricane, hurling maximum sustained winds of 120 mph. The mammoth storm nearly doubled in strength over the past 24 hours and is expected to keep growing before it makes landfall.
As of 11 a.m. ET, Maria was centered about 60 miles (95 kilometers) east of Martinique. Its first landfall is expected around 8 p.m. ET in the northeast Caribbean’s Leeward Islands — specifically Dominica and Martinique.
Puerto Rico sheltered many of the evacuees who fled Hurricane Irma’s wrath in other Caribbean islands. Now those evacuees and native Puerto Ricans are bracing for another catastrophic hurricane.
Puerto Rico’s governor ordered evacuations Monday ahead of Tuesday’s deteriorating conditions.
“Our call is for people to evacuate areas that are prone to floods and landslides, in addition to vulnerable structures,” Rosselló said.
“It is time to seek refuge with a family member, friend, or move to a state shelter because rescuers will not go out and risk their lives once winds reach 50 miles per hour.”
Rosselló added that Maria’s size means all of Puerto Rico will experience hurricane conditions.
If Maria strikes the island as forecast, it will be “more dangerous than Hugo and Georges,” he said.
Maria was closing in on the Leeward Islands on Monday, about 60 miles (95 kilometers) east of Martinique and 95 miles away from Dominica. At 11 a.m. ET, it was headed toward the islands at 10 mph.
On Monday morning, Hurricane Jose was about 270 miles east-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and was moving north at 9 mph.