Hurricane Maria has intensified from a category 1 to a monster category 5 hurricane in under 48 hours. The now 160 mph storm is expected to strengthen further as it makes its first landfall in the eastern Caribbean before making a direct hit on the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Maria possesses winds equivalent to that of an EF 3 to EF 4 tornado and is moving at less than 10 mph, meaning the worst of its winds will bear down on the same locations for up to 6 hours at a time (keep in mind that a tornado typically spends around 30 seconds to 2 minutes affecting one single location). The National Hurricane Center forecasts Hurricane Maria to make landfall in southeastern Puerto Rico as a category 5 storm with sustained winds of 160 mph. The already devastated US and British Virgin Islands can expect extreme winds and rain as well as storm surge over the next 48 hours. This will cause catastrophic damage across Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic as well.
Following its landfall in Puerto Rico, Maria is expected to track into the eastern Bahamas as a category 3 or 4 storm as it continues to move northwestward, potentially impacting the US East Coast over the next week and a half. For further information, please consult the National Hurricane Center at http://www.nhc.noaa.gov and the National Weather Service at http://www.weather.gov.