BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Sunday September 17, 2017 – It’s still Tropical Storm Maria for now, but that’s likely to change later today, as the storm moves closer to the Leeward Islands.
In fact, forecasters say not only is Maria likely to be a hurricane as it moves across the island chain, but it could become a major hurricane by mid-week.
At 11 a.m., Maria was 450 miles east southeast of the Leeward Islands and moving west northwest at 15 miles per hour. At that time it was still carrying maximum sustained winds near 65 miles per hour, with higher gusts, and the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) in Miami said its centre is on track to move across the Leeward Islands tomorrow night.
Several watches and warnings remain in place, while others have been added in the latest advisory. A hurricane warning has been issued for Dominica and a tropical storm warning is now in effect for St Lucia.
A hurricane watch remains in effect for: Antigua & Barbuda, St Kitts & Nevis, Montserrat, Guadeloupe, Saba, St Eustatius, St Maarten, St Martin, St Barthelemy and Anguilla; while Martinique, Barbados and St Vincent and the Grenadines are still under a tropical storm watch.
Swells generated by Maria are already beginning to affect the Lesser Antilles. And forecasters say a dangerous storm surge accompanied by large and destructive waves will raise water levels by as much as 4 to 6 feet above normal tide levels near where the center of Maria moves across the Leeward Islands.
Maria is also expected to produce total rain accumulations of 6 to 12 inches with isolated maximum amounts of 20 inches across the Leeward Islands, including Puerto Rico and the US and British Virgin Islands through Wednesday night; and 2 to 4 inches for the northern and central Windward Islands.
“In all the above areas, these rainfall amounts could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides,” the NHC warned.
And as Maria is forecast to strengthen, what was Tropical Storm Lee has weakened. It is now a tropical depression with maximum sustained winds that have decreased to near 35 miles per hour.
At 11 a.m., it was located about 875 miles west southwest of the Cabo Verde Islands and forecasters say it could be a remnant low by Tuesday, if not sooner.