New hurricane bears down on Irma-battered Caribbean

This Sunday Sept. 17 2017 GOES East satellite image provided by NASA taken at 7:45 p.m EDT shows Hurricane Maria as it approaches the Lesser Antilles. Maria swiftly grew into a hurricane Sunday and forecasters said it was expected to become much stro

New hurricane bears down on Irma-battered Caribbean

Meanwhile, a new storm, Maria, is brewing and swirling toward the eastern Caribbean Monday, with forecasters warning it probably would be a major storm by the time it passed through the already battered Leeward Islands later in the day. Hurricane Maria is following a similar path.

The NHC thinks that Maria may be an extremely risky major hurricane (Cat 3+) as it approaches the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico by late Tuesday into Wednesday.

At 8:00 p.m., the eye of Hurricane Maria was located near latitude 15.3 North, longitude 61.1 West.

Early models show Maria moving toward Florida and up the U.S. East Coast, but forecasts are far in advance. Maria's sustained wind speeds of 125 miles per hour at 2 p.m. ET make it a strong Category 3 already. It's almost 290 square miles (751 square kilometers) and "slightly more than four times the size of Washington DC".

"We are planning for the unexpected, we are planning for the worst", said Chris Austin, head of a United Kingdom military task force set up to deal with Irma, as the British Virgin Islands readied for the storm. It looks like the storm will pass right over Dominica over the next few hours.

"This is not a system that will linger very long".

Officials on nearby Guadeloupe said the French island would experience extremely heavy flooding and warned that many communities could be submerged overnight. Now those evacuees and native Puerto Ricans are bracing for another catastrophic hurricane.

Puerto Rico's governor ordered evacuations Monday ahead of Tuesday's deteriorating conditions.

AccuWeather meteorologist Dave Samuhel told USA Today that Maria will pass "dangerously close" to the U.S. east coast. Schools and universities will be closed, authorities said. Tropical Storm Lee formed Saturday but weakened to a tropical depression Sunday morning.

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Hurricane Maria has officially reached category 5 status.

Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rossello said officials had prepared about 450 shelters with a capacity for almost 68,000 people - or even 125,000 in an emergency.

On Friday, the hurricane may come close to the Turks and Caicos and southeast Bahamas, which were ravaged by Irma.

A hurricane watch is in effect for U.S. Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Saba and St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, St. Martin and St. Barthelemy, and Anguilla.

With Jose moving north at 9 miles per hour, a tropical storm watch is in effect for areas from Fenwick Island to Sandy Hook; Delaware Bay South; East Rockaway Inlet to Plymouth; Block Island; Martha's Vineyard; and Nantucket.

A group of 40 Commando Royal Marines is based on Tortola, which is the largest of the British Virgin Islands - and was smashed by Irma.

A Hurricane Watch is in effect for Antigua, Barbuda, St. Kitts, Nevis, and Montserrat.

The British Virgin Islands, Martinique and Guadeloupe, which were hit by Irma, are again in the firing line. The HMS Ocean is set to arrive in the area at week's end with 60 tons of government supplies.

A string of eastern Caribbean islands faced their second major storm of the month on Monday as Hurricane Maria barrelled toward them with 120 mile-per-hour (195 kph) winds, heavy rains and unsafe storm surges.

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