Hurricane Maria, currently located 90 km (55 mi) east-northeast of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, is now a category 2 hurricane as of 20:00 (local time) on Wednesday, September 20. The National Hurricane Center issued hurricane warnings for Turks and Caicos and the southeastern Bahamas, Dominican Republic from Cabo Engaño to Puerto Plata, Puerto Rico, Culebra, and Vieques. Moreover, tropical storm warnings are in effect for Dominican Republic from Cabo Engaño to Punta Palenque and from Puerto Plata to the Haitian border.
Hurricane Maria has produced heavy rainfall throughout the Caribbean. Reports say rainfall totaled 25 to 38 cm (10 to 15 inches) in the central and southern Leeward Islands as well as the US and British Virgin Islands, and is expected to bring 45 to 60 cm (18 to 24 inches) in Puerto Rico and 10 to 20 cm (4 to 8 inches) in the eastern Dominican Republic. Along with heavy rainfall, strong winds and storm surges caused large-scale structural damage as well as persistent flooding across the region.
The island of Dominica experienced widespread destruction, with at least seven people confirmed dead. A further two people were confirmed killed in Guadeloupe. Early reports say Dominica has been largely stripped of its vegetation, and most dwellings have been either destroyed or heavily damaged. Furthermore, the entirety of Puerto Rico is without electricity as of Wednesday evening, and all airports are closed until Saturday at the earliest. Puerto Rico continues to face severe flooding.
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.