For several island nations, September has been a month of record hurricane-inflicted destruction. With many countries still reeling in the aftermath of Category 5 Hurricane Irma, it's difficult to imagine worse timing for another huge storm to hit. And with Category 4 storm Hurricane Maria posting winds of 155 mph, its destructive potential is enormous. A video of Hurricane Maria making landfall in San Juan early Wednesday morning shows how powerful the storm hit the already-damaged island of Puerto Rico.
This marks the first time in 80 years that the island has sustained a direct hit from a storm of this magnitude. (Hurricane Irma's strongest winds missed the island, though the earlier storm left over a million residents without power.) Thankfully, reports indicate that thousands of Puerto Ricans heeded calls to evacuate to hurricane shelters. Puerto Rico's Governor Ricardo Rosselló said this will be the most "devastating storm in the history of our island." A forecaster at the Hurricane Center, Michael Brennan, echoed that sentiment, tweeting: "Starting to run out of adjectives for #Maria. Horrifying."
In a brutal assessment of likely damage, Rosselló said that while structures built after new building codes were implemented in 2011 will likely withstand Hurricane Maria, wooden homes in flood areas have "no chance." Video of the winds whipping San Juan show the kind of destructive power Rosselló is referencing.
At 155 mph, Hurricane Maria's winds are just 2 mph shy of bumping the storm up to a Category 5. That reality is devastatingly apparent in the above video posted on Twitter by meteorologist for the Weather Channel, Mike Seidel. The Hurricane Center has issued an urgent warning that "This is an extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation."
Coastal Puerto Rico is expected to experience a storm surge of six to nine feet, with some areas predicted to be deluged with up to 25 inches of rain.
Damage inflicted on islands already hit by Hurricane Maria does not bode well for Puerto Rico. At least two people on the island of Guadaloupe have been confirmed dead as a result of the storm, with two others reported missing. The island of Dominica also suffered severe damage after Hurricane Maria swept over it.
In a touching statement following Hurricane Maria, the Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit, released a statement by saying, "We have lost all what money can buy and replace."
As of 8 a.m. ET, the dreaded eyewall of Hurricane Maria sat over eastern Puerto Rico. Jaw-dropping winds whipped through San Juan.
Puerto Rico was still in the process of restoring electricity after Hurricane Irma swept over the island just two weeks ago. At least three people on the island were killed in that storm, and over a million Puerto Ricans were left without power. Several houses were also destroyed, and downed trees made certain areas unnavigable.
Puerto Rico is also struggling economically, outside of the obvious financial toll of rebuilding in the aftermath of a massive storm like Hurricane Irma or Hurricane Maria. In May, Puerto Rico filed for bankruptcy following a ten year recession that prompted widespread "brain drain" from the island country to the U.S. mainland. The government has been unable to pay out full government pensions or continue some much needed public services, such as education. Puerto Rico announced in late spring that it would close 184 schools, meaning 27,000 students suddenly forced to find a new school home.
President Trump has committed "to be there to help" Puerto Rico rebuild following Hurricane Maria. It remains to be seen just how big that effort will be, but given the size and magnitude of the storm, the price tag will likely be high.