Published On: Mon, Sep 18th, 2017

Hurricane Maria packs a Category 5 punch toward Leeward Islands

MIAMI - A "potentially catastrophic" Hurricane Maria is now a Category 5 storm, packing 160 miles per hour winds -- with even higher gusts -- as it nears Dominica and takes aim at the US territory of Puerto Rico.

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"The extremely dangerous core of Maria is expected to pass over Dominica within the next hour or two," the National Hurricane Center said in its 8 p.m. ET advisory. "Maria is likely to affect Puerto Rico as an extremely dangerous major hurricane, and a hurricane warning has been issued for that island."
A US Air Force Reserve C-130 Hurricane Hunter data measured the intense storm, which heightens the chance of life-threatening storm surge and "hitting the Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico."
For the first time in 85 years, Puerto Rico is expected to suffer a direct landfall from such a strong hurricane. Puerto Rico's governor has declared a state of emergency ahead of that landfall, which will likely happen Wednesday.
The hurricane center statement said Maria was centered about 15 miles east-southeast of Dominica and 40 miles north of Martinique. The mammoth storm was moving west-northwest at 9 mph.

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