Speed Reads

Hurricane Maria

Hurricane Maria strengthens to a dangerous Category 5 storm, batters Dominica en route to Puerto Rico

Hurricane Maria, which was a tropical storm on Sunday, whipped into a dangerous Category 5 hurricane by Monday night and made a direct hit on the island of Dominica. On Facebook, Dominica's prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, recounted his harrowing experience live, starting with: "The winds are merciless! We shall survive by the grace of God." A few minutes later, he said that galvanized steel roofs were flying in the wind outside, then half an hour later: "My roof is gone. I am at the complete mercy of the hurricane. House is flooding." He was rescued seven minutes later. In 2015, Tropical Storm Erika killed 31 people and destroyed 370 homes on Dominica.

Maria is expected to cause severe flooding on nearby Guadeloupe overnight, before heading toward Puerto Rico, which escaped a direct hit from Hurricane Irma but is in the likely path of Maria. Hurricane warnings were also in effect for a series of other islands battered by Irma, including the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. Forecasters are concerned that Maria may become even stronger, based on the small size of its eye.

"You have to evacuate," warned Puerto Rico's public safety commissioner, Hector Pesquera. "Otherwise you're going to die." Some 70,000 people in the U.S. territory are still without power from Irma, and as the island braces for 12 to 24 hours of strong winds and heavy rains, Puerto Rico is rationing water, milk, batteries, canned goods, baby formula, and other supplies.