Hurricane Maria, currently located 70 km (40 mi) north of Martinique, strengthened into a category 5 hurricane on the evening of Monday, September 18. The National Hurricane Center issued hurricane warnings for Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Montserrat, US Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Culebra, and Vieques. Moreover, tropical storm warnings are in effect for Antigua and Barbuda, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, Anguilla, St. Lucia, and Martinique.
Hurricane Maria currently has sustained winds of up to 260 km/h (160 mph) is moving west-northwest at a speed of 15 km/h (9 mph). The hurricane is expected to make landfall near Dominica and Leeward Islands in the evening of September 18, before approaching Puerto Rico on September 19.
Heavy rainfall is expected throughout the Caribbean, 25 to 38 cm (10 to 15 inches) for the central and southern Leeward Islands as well as the US and British Virgin Islands, 30 to 45 cm (12 to 18 inches) for Puerto Rico, and 10 to 20 cm (4 to 8 inches) for the eastern Dominican Republic. Along with heavy rainfall, storm surges have the potential to result in life-threatening flooding in affected areas. Associated transportation disruptions are expected, including flight disruptions.
Much of the region is still recovering from Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm that struck the region the week of September 6-10. Irma caused mass destruction in widespread areas, including Saint Martin/Sint Maarten, Saint Barthélemy, Cuba, and the Florida Keys.
Individuals present in the Caribbean region are advised to keep abreast of weather alerts, confirm travel reservations, avoid coastal and mountainous areas (risk of flooding and landslides), and adhere to all advice issued by the local authorities.
In the event of flooding, remember that driving or walking through running water can be dangerous; 15 cm (6 in) of running water is enough to knock over an adult. Finally, because floodwater may also contain wastewater or chemical products, wear boots and try to avoid any contact with the water. All items having come into contact with the water should be washed and disinfected and foodstuffs disposed of.