SAN JUAN – Hurricane Maria is “probably the most dangerous (storm) in the modern history” of Puerto Rico, Gov. Ricardo Rossello said on Tuesday.
Maria poses an “extreme danger” and is going to “impact all of Puerto Rico” with a force “that we have not seen in several generations,” Rossello said during a press conference with AEMEAD emergency management agency officials.
The governor called on residents of low-lying areas and occupants of wood and zinc-roofed structures to evacuate.
Rossello declared a state of emergency in Puerto Rico on Monday ahead of the possible arrival of Hurricane Maria.
The director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in Puerto Rico, Alejandro de la Campa, said officials were committed to reconstruction following the storm, making the island “more resilient, stronger and with better structures.”
Hurricane Maria, which caused extensive damage on the Caribbean island of Dominica, is about 135 kilometers (84 miles) west of Guadeloupe and 275 kilometers (170 miles) southeast of St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
The hurricane has maximum sustained winds of 260 kph (160 mph) and is moving west-northwest at 15 kph (9 mph).
“Maria is a potentially catastrophic Category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Some fluctuations in intensity are likely during the next day or two, but Maria is forecast to remain an extremely dangerous Category 4 or 5 hurricane while it approaches the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico,” the NHC said in its 1200 GMT advisory.
Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat, the US Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Culebra and Vieques are under a hurricane warning.
A hurricane watch is in effect for Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, St. Martin, St. Barthelemy and Anguilla, as well as from Isla Saona to Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic.
“Maria is moving toward the west-northwest near 9 mph (15 kph), and this general motion is expected to continue through Wednesday. On the forecast track, the eye of Maria will move over the northeastern Caribbean Sea today, and approach the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico tonight and Wednesday,” the NHC said.