Hurricane Maria made landfall on the island of Dominica late Monday evening after strengthening and becoming a severe Category 5 storm. As the hurricane makes its way through the Caribbean, many want to know what path it will take and which locations will be affected — including whether Hurricane Maria will hit San Juan, Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, the National Hurricane Center reports that Maria could be potentially devastating for San Juan and much of Puerto Rico, as the island is expected to take a direct hit.
Maria made landfall on the small Caribbean island of Dominica around 9:15 p.m. local time on Monday. The hurricane has reportedly done a significant amount of damage on the island, as Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit tragically told news channel teleSur to "Please let the world know Dominica has been devastated." The prime minister also reportedly had to be rescued from his house after its roof blew off in the storm.
Now the powerful storm is making its way toward the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, which will likely receive a direct hit. If Maria does directly strike Puerto Rico, it would constitute the first time in 85 years that the island has been directly impacted a storm stronger than a Category 3 hurricane, according to CNN.
Maria is likely to affect Puerto Rico as an extremely dangerous major hurricane, and a hurricane warning has been issued for that island. ... Life-threatening flash floods and mudslides from heavy rainfall are expected across the Leeward Islands, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands.
A hurricane alert issued by the National Weather Service also noted the potentially devastating impacts of Maria for Puerto Rico. The alert outlined that the storm could result in total accumulations of 12 to 18 inches of rain, with some areas receiving 25 inches or more. There is also potential for significant storm surge, or sea level rise. Both of these factors can result in extensive and dangerous flooding.
Moreover, the hurricane alert expressed that extremely high winds could potentially cause "catastrophic damage" to structures as well as power and communication lines — and that people are at significant risk for injury from flying debris.
The island is under a hurricane warning and Maria is expected to first strike on Wednesday morning. Officials in Puerto Rico, including the island's governor, Ricardo Rosselló, are preparing for the worst. In an interview with USA Today, Rosselló outlined his expectation for the storm; according to the newspaper:
Hurricane Maria, expected to pound Puerto Rico by Wednesday with 150-mph winds, will flood some parts of the island, thoroughly destroy others and leave most of the nation of 3.4 million people without power, Rosselló said in an interview with USA TODAY. "It will essentially devastate most of the island," he said.
Rosselló also said that the island is seeking to prepare as much as possible, though preparation has been particularly challenging as parts of Puerto Rico are still recovering from the impacts of Hurricane Irma, which did not directly strike the island but caused significant damage in some places.
As reported by the Miami Herald, Rosselló stated that nearly 70,000 people in Puerto Rico still do not have power after Irma, and around 200 are still in shelters. To prepare for Maria, the island is planning to reopen 450 storm shelters capable of housing as many as 125,000 people.
Rosselló also told USA Today that he has already received approval from the Trump administration for a disaster declaration, which allows federal funds to be directed toward Puerto Rico for hurricane relief and recovery. As the governor noted to the outlet, he has found U.S. mainland officials very responsive as Puerto Rico braces for the storm.
There can be many other areas where we differ on public policy, but I have to say the response from FEMA and the federal response has been phenomenal.
Overall, Puerto Rico is doing everything it can to prepare for Maria's arrival; however, it looks as though the storm could potentially have devastating consequences for San Juan and for much of the rest of the island.