SANTO DOMINGO – The Emergency Operations Center (COE) increased on Wednesday the number of provinces on red alert to nine and the number on yellow alert to 15 as Hurricane Maria approached the Dominican Republic, with the effects of the powerful storm expected to be felt in the country starting Thursday.
The remaining six Dominican provinces are on green alert, the minimum level, the COE said, adding that 1,084 people had evacuated from areas vulnerable to flooding to the homes of relatives and friends.
According to current projections, Maria on Thursday morning will be located between 75 and 125 kilometers (46 and 78 miles) northeast of Cape Engaño, near the tourist resort of Punta Cana.
The storm could bring rain amounting to between 150 and 300 millimeters (6 to 12 inches), with some areas receiving up to 500 mm (20 inches), according to the COE’s most recent report.
The National Weather Office (Onamet) is maintaining a hurricane warning from Cape Engaño to Puerto Plata on the northern coast and a tropical storm warning from Puerto Plata to Manzanillo Bay.
In addition, it has announced a tropical storm warning from Cape Engaño, the easternmost point on the island of Hispaniola, to Punta Palenque, on the southern coast.
Maria’s winds have been declining in strength after it made landfall in southeastern Puerto Rico and it has been downgraded from a Category 5 to a Category 4 storm, according to the US-based National Hurricane Center.
In its 2 pm advisory, the NHC said that the eye of Maria is located off the northwestern coast of Puerto Rico with maximum sustained winds of 185 kph (115 mph), not as strong as they had been when the 8 am advisory was issued.
The storm is located 20 km west of Arecibo and 155 km east of Punta Cana and is moving northwest at 19 kph.