Tropical Storm Maria Forecast to Become a Hurricane and Pose a Potentially Serious Threat to the Lesser Antilles, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands
Tropical Storm Maria is expected to become a hurricane soon.
Hurricane conditions are possible from the Lesser Antilles to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico this week.
Maria could strengthen into a major hurricane (Category 3 or stronger) as it passes near the northeast Caribbean Islands.
It’s too soon to determine whether Maria will ever directly impact the United States, but it will be monitored closely.
Tropical Storm Maria is forecast to intensify into a hurricane soon and could pose a major threat to the Lesser Antilles, Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico this week, including some of the same areas that were hard hit by Hurricane Irma.
Tropical Storm Maria is currently located just over 400 miles east-southeast of the Lesser Antilles and is moving west-northwest at 15 mph.
(MORE: Hurricane Central)
Current Storm Status
Atmospheric conditions are favorable for Maria to strengthen, and it could become a hurricane as early as Sunday. Maria could then grow into a dangerous major hurricane (Category 3 or stronger) as it passes through the northeast Caribbean Islands by midweek due to a combination of low wind shear, a moist atmosphere and warm ocean temperatures.
It’s too early to know whether Maria will pose a threat to the United States, but it will be monitored closely for many days to come.
A hurricane warning is now in effect for Dominica and Guadeloupe and a tropical storm warning has been issued for St. Lucia and Martinique.
Hurricane watches remain in effect for Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, Montserrat, Saba and St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, St. Martin, St. Barthelemy and Anguilla.
Tropical storm watches have been posted for Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Watches and Warnings
Leeward Islands Impacts
Conditions are likely to deteriorate starting Monday in the Leeward Islands with hurricanes conditions possible starting Monday night and continuing through Tuesday. This includes locations in the northern Leeward Islands that were devastated by Hurricane Irma.
The strength of the winds in any one location will be determined by how much Maria intensifies and the exact path it moves along through the northern Leeward Islands.
Rainfall totals of 6 to 12 inches are possible in the Leeward Islands through Tuesday night, with locally up to 20 inches in some spots. This amount of rain could cause life-threatening flash flooding and mudslides.
Rainfall Forecast Through Thursday
A storm surge of 4 to 6 feet above normal tide levels is expected in the hurricane watch area.
High surf and dangerous rip currents are also expected by Sunday night in the Lesser Antilles.
Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands and Hispaniola Impacts
Maria could be a dangerous hurricane as it tracks near or either side of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Hispaniola into midweek.
Conditions may begin to deteriorate starting Tuesday in the Virgin Islands and then spread west towards Puerto Rico by Wednesday. Portions of the Dominican Republic and Haiti could see impacts from Maria begin as early as Thursday.
The extent of any wind or storm surge impacts will be dictated by the exact strength and path of Maria at that time.
Heavy rain will also be a threat and could contribute to flooding and mudslides. Parts of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands may see 6 to 12 inches of rain with locally up to 20 inches in some areas through midweek.
Additional details on the threats from Maria to Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Hispaniola will be provided as they become available.
Residents and visitors in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands should be making preparations right now for a potential hurricane strike.
Only three times before have two hurricanes passes within 75 nautical miles of the Virgin Islands during the same hurricane season.
— Jonathan Erdman (@wxjerdman) September 17, 2017
Will Maria Threaten the United States?
In short, we cannot determine at this time whether Maria will directly impact the United States.
Whether Maria will ever pose a threat to the U.S. will depend on steering currents in the upper atmosphere over the western Atlantic Ocean and the eastern United States that cannot be pinned down more than a week in advance.
Interestingly, the potential for Jose to stall off the Northeast coast this weekend could play some role in determining Maria’s long-term future path.
Also, if Maria interacts with the higher terrain of Puerto Rico and/or Hispaniola that could also affect its future track and intensity.
If Maria would strike the U.S., and again, that is not by any means a certainty, that would not happen until the final week of September.
For now, all residents along the East Coast and Gulf Coast should monitor the progress of Maria.