Hurricane Jose continued to churn northward Monday and was expected to bring heavy rains, strong winds and surf swells to the northeast, while Hurricane Maria was heading to areas of the Caribbean that were already devastated by Hurricane Irma.
Maria has strengthened to a Category 3 storm that is rapidly intensifying and expected to become a dangerous major hurricane as it moves through the Leeward Islands and the northeastern Caribbean Sea, according to the National Hurricane Center in its latest advisory.
“Maria is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 6 to 12 inches with isolated maximum amounts of 20 inches across the central and southern Leeward Islands, and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands through Wednesday night,” said the advisory.
Maria currently has maximum sustained winds of 120 miles an hour. A hurricane watch is in effect for Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, St. Martin, St. Barthelemy and Anguilla.
A hurricane warning is in effect for some of the islands that were spared Irma’s power, including St. Lucia, Guadeloupe, Dominica, Montserrat and Martinique. Tropical storm warnings are in effect for Antigua and Barbuda, Saba and St. Eustatius and St. Maarten. The storm is likely to dump up to 4 inches of rain on other islands, including Barbados.
Maria comes less than two weeks after Irma all but wiped out the island of Barbuda, which has a population of 1,800. Most of those people have already been evacuated to Antigua and many are being housed in shelters.
Puerto Rico Gov. Richard Rossello has declared a state of emergency and said operations at ports will be shut down starting Tuesday. The island avoided a direct hit from Irma, but was still lashed with rain and heavy winds, that caused nearly 900,000 people to lose power. The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority has said parts of the island could be without electricity for up to six months.
AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said the destruction of vegetation in the northern Leeward and Virgin Islands means there is a much greater chance of dangerous mudslides and flash flooding, even if the eye of the storm passes by to the south.
“The Dominican Republic, Haiti and the Turks and Caicos will be threatened with similar impacts later in the week,” Sosnowski said. “Much of the Bahamas are likely to face more substantial impact from Maria than Irma.”
Adding to the gloom, AccuWeather said there is still a risk that more hurricanes will form over the Atlantic during the rest of the 2017 season, through end November. The forecasting service is expecting at least four more named storms, two of which may be hurricane strength, and at least one of which may be a major hurricane.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Jose was about 430 kilometers east-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and about 815 kilometers south of Nantucket, with maximum sustained winds of 75 miles an hour. Tropical storm warnings are in effect for the whole region stretching from Delaware up to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, according to the NHC.
The trio of hurricanes come after Hurricane Harvey brought widespread destruction to the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast, estimated by AccuWeather to have caused damages of up to $190 billion. If realized, that would make it the costliest-ever U.S. national disaster. Irma is expected by some experts to top that damage, given the size of the storm and the population that was in its path.
The PowerShares KBW Property & Casualty Insurance Portfolio exchange-traded fund
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