SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The Latest on Hurricane Maria (all times local):
Hurricane Maria is now approaching the northern coast of Puerto Rico as destructive winds and flooding are continuing.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami says the eye of the Category 4 major hurricane is now located about 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of San Juan, the capital. Maximum sustained winds are 140 mph (220 kph) and the storm is moving to the northwest at 12 mph (19 kph).
The Miami-based hurricane center says little change in strength is expected in the coming 48 hours as Maria remains a dangerous major hurricane. It says tropical storm conditions are expected to begin in the Dominican Republica this afternoon with hurricane conditions starting there later Wednesday night. Forecasters say the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas will see worsening conditions Thursday morning with the expected arrival of hurricane winds Thursday evening.
An adviser to Dominican Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit says there have been seven confirmed deaths in the Caribbean country from Hurricane Maria.
Hartley Henry didn’t give details about how the deaths occurred. They raise the overall death toll to nine from the storm including two on the French island of Guadeloupe.
Henry says the country is "in a daze" with no electricity or power and little to no communications.
He said in a statement Wednesday that there has been a "tremendous loss of housing and public buildings" in the mountainous island but the full extent of the damage isn’t known. The storm struck the country Monday and Tuesday and is now over Puerto Rico.
Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico as the third strongest storm to make landfall in the United States based on a key measurement meteorologists use: air pressure.
The lower the central pressure a storm has, the stronger it is and Maria’s pressure was 917 millibars. That’s lower than Irma’s U.S. landfall of 929 millibars in the Florida Keys earlier this year, as well 2005’s Hurricane Katrina landfall of 920, which had been in third place.
Only two hurricanes hit the United States, U.S. islands or Hawaii with a stronger pressure: the 1935 Labor Day storm that hit the Florida Keys and 1969’s Camille that devastated the Gulf Coast.
Metal roofs were already flying and windows were breaking as Maria approached Puerto Rico before dawn, with nearly 900,000 people without power and one tree falling on an ambulance.
Those who sought shelter at a coliseum in San Juan were moved to the building’s second and third floors, reported radio station WKAQ 580 AM. The storm was moving across Puerto Rico on Wednesday morning at 10 mph (17 kph), with a gust of 113 mph (182 kph) reported in the capital of San Juan, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.
Puerto Rico had long been spared from a direct hit by hurricanes that tend to veer north or south of the island. The last Category 4 hurricane landfall in Puerto Rico occurred in 1932, and the strongest storm to ever hit the island was San Felipe in 1928 with winds of 160 mph (257 kph).
Hurricane Maria has made landfall in Puerto Rico.
The National Hurricane Center says the Category 4 Hurricane made landfall early Wednesday near Yabucoa, Puerto Rico. It had a sustained wind of 155 mph (250 kph).
It was located about 30 miles (50 kph) south-southeast of San Juan.
Hurricane Maria has weakened to a Category 4 storm as it closes in on Puerto Rico but remains a dangerous hurricane that threatens to decimate the power company’s crumbling infrastructure and force the government to rebuild dozens of communities.
Maria’s maximum sustained winds Wednesday morning are near 155 mph (250 kph) and the U.S. National Hurricane Center says the storm should keep that intensity until it makes landfall.
As of 5 a.m. EDT, Maria is centered about 50 miles (75 kilometers) southeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and is moving northwest near 10 mph (17 kph).
The prefect of the French island of Guadeloupe has raised the death toll stemming from Hurricane Maria from one to two people.
Eric Maire said Tuesday night that in addition to one person who "did not comply with the confinement instructions" and was killed by a falling tree, another person died after they "fell in the sea."
The identity of either of the fatalities is unknown.
The Guadeloupe prefecture has also said two people are reported missing after a shipwreck near the French island of Desirade.
France’s interior minister Gerard Collomb said there were three people wounded in Martinique, including one seriously.
The extent of the damage from Tuesday’s hurricane is yet to be assessed on those French territories.
Puerto Rico faces what officials say could be the strongest hurricane to ever hit the U.S. territory as they warned it would decimate the power company’s crumbling infrastructure and force the government to rebuild dozens of communities.
Maria barreled toward the island with 175 mph winds and forecasters said it was expected to make landfall Wednesday midmorning along Puerto Rico’s southeast coast as a Category 5 storm, punishing the island with life-threatening winds for 12 to 24 hours.
The number of power outages spiked as Maria approached, with the storm centered early Wednesday about 70 miles (115 kilometers) southeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and moving northwest at 10 mph (17 kph).