"The eye and the intense inner core is expected to pass near Dominica in the next few hours", the center warned in its 2100 GMT bulletin, describing Maria as "an extremely unsafe major hurricane". It will become the first Category 5 storm to strike Dominica in recorded history.
As of Monday at 2 p.m. ET, Maria had strengthened into a Category 3 hurricane with winds of 125 miles per hour, and is forecast to continue moving toward the eastern Caribbean at 10 miles per hour.
This week's storm is aimed directly at the islands that were expected to pick up much of the cruise ship and other tourism business lost to the destruction of the Virgin Islands, Anguilla and St. Martin.
St Kitts, Nevis, the British island of Montserrat, Culebra and Vieques were also on alert.
Puerto Rico was largely unaffected by Hurricane Irma when it pummeled the area two weeks ago, but Irma left 38 people dead in the Caribbean and devastated the us territories St. John and St. Thomas. One military team has been deployed to the British Virgin Islands. The storm will remain a category 4 storm and perhaps even strengthen to a category 5 over the next few days.
Dominica is a small island with a population of almost 74,000 about halfway between Puerto Rico and Trinidad and Tobago, according to the CIA World Factbook.
Forecasters warned that heavy rainfall caused by the hurricane "could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides".
Forecasters said storm surge could raise water levels by 6 to 9 feet (1.8 to 2.7 meters) near the storm's center.
For now, though, the focus is on making sure that the islands about to be hit by this formidable storm are adequately prepared.
However, it will look and feel much like an extra strong nor'easter around here, certainly nothing to take lightly.
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Maria's sustained maximum winds are now at 160 miles per hour, after rising from 90 miles per hour earlier Monday. There have been four major storms this hurricane season.
"2017 joins 1932, 1933, 1961, 2005, and 2007 as only years with multiple Cat 5s; likely to join 2007 as the only with multiple Cat 5 landfalls", tweeted MDA Federal, a meteorological consulting firm.
Irma also hit the United States, where several dozen deaths were linked to the hurricane.
Swells generated by the system are expected to begin affecting the Lesser Antilles by Sunday night.
Even so, by Tuesday it could bring tropical storm conditions from Fenwick Island, Delaware, to Sandy Hook, New Jersey, and from East Rockaway Inlet on New York's Long Island to the MA island of Nantucket.
Jose was centered about 230 miles east-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and was in a stationary position.
Mapp warned that hurricane-force winds were expected to howl across St. Croix for eight hours, accompanied by up to a foot and a half (46 cm) of rain that would be followed by almost a week of additional showers.
The order, effective from 4pm local time, bars specific areas considered to be at risk of "flooding, submersion and landslips", according to the statement, issued by the island's prefect. Because the storm is a slow-mover, beaches will be assaulted for an extended duration, leading to the prospect of severe erosion. While Jose might come uncomfortably close, especially Tuesday, its center of circulation and strongest winds are expected to stay off the coast.
The National Weather Service has issued a tropical storm warning for the southern New England coast, including Washington County, Newport County and Southeastern Massachusetts.
It's important to note that small changes in Jose's track could increase or decrease the intensity of effects and how far they expand inland.
The US island of Puerto Rico appears to be directly in Maria's path, with the Virgin Islands also projected to be near the storm's eye.