Category 5 Hurricane Maria Causes 'Mind Boggling' Damage to Dominica, on Path to Puerto Rico
Hurricane Maria made landfall as a Category 5 storm in Dominica on Monday night and left "mind boggling" damage to the island nation, according to the country's prime minister.
While no deaths or injuries were immediately reported, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerritt wrote in a Facebook post that the hurricane caused "widespread devastation" and residents "have lost all what money can buy and replace."
Winds up to 160 miles per hour ripped the roofs off of buildings, including Skerritt's own home.
He noted, "I am honestly not preoccupied with physical damage at this time, because it is devastating ... indeed, mind boggling. My focus now is in rescuing the trapped and securing medical assistance for the injured."
"We will need help, my friend, we will need help of all kinds."
Maria started as a tropical storm over a day ago but wind speeds rapidly ramped up another 90 miles per hour within 27 hours, National Weather Service said.
BBC meteorologist Steve Cleaton explained that Maria gathered strength due to the area's elevated sea surface temperatures, which are "anomalously high by a margin of around one to two degrees," as well as other favorable atmospheric conditions such as low wind shear.
The "potentially catastrophic" storm now heads northwest towards the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, National Hurricane Center (NHC) senior hurricane specialist Mike Brennan warned in a video update Tuesday morning.
Brennan said he was "very concerned" of the potentially Category 4 or 5 winds moving through the area, as well as storm surges and extreme rainfall.
According to the NHC, a storm surge accompanied by large and destructive waves could raise water levels by as much as 7 to 11 feet above normal tide levels in portions of the Leeward Islands and the British Virgin Islands, and 6 to 9 feet in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
As for extreme rainfall, the central and southern Leeward Islands can expect 10 to 15 inches, and isolated areas of up to 20 inches. U.S. and British Virgin Islands can expect 10 to 15 inches, and isolated areas of up to 20 inches. Puerto Rico might see 12 to 18 inches, and isolated areas of up to 25 inches.
"Everybody in those islands should have their preparations rushed to completion very, very soon as conditions will begin to deteriorate today," Brennan urged.
Maria is the third major hurricane to tear through the already devastated Caribbean islands in recent weeks.
President Donald Trump has declared a federal emergency in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate all disaster relief efforts.