Hurricane Maria was upgraded to a Category 5 storm on Monday as it made its way toward the northeastern corner of the Caribbean with sustained 160-mph winds.
Hurricane warnings have been issued for Guadeloupe, Dominica, St Kitts and Nevis, and Montserrat - meaning that tropical-storm-force winds are expected within 36 hours.
Hurricane Maria strengthened to a Category 4 storm, the National Hurricane Center said on Monday, labeling it "extremely risky".
Maria is taking a similar track as Hurricane Irma did just two weeks ago, and most in the region are taking precautions sooner rather than later.More news: Jada Pinkett Smith Reacts to Leah Remini's Scientology Accusation
Up to five inches of rain could fall over parts of the area, and the storm could bring unsafe surf and rip currents as well. The storm may end up having winds as high as 150 miles per hour Tuesday, which would make it a Category 4 hurricane.
Forecasters say Hurricane Jose is now about 270 miles (440 kilometers) east-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and that a large stretch of the U.S. East Coast into New England should keep watch on the storm's progress.
Its center was about 25 km east-southeast of Dominica and 70 km north of Martinique in the eastern Caribbean Sea, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in an advisory Monday evening.
The government of Puerto Rico has already begun preparations for Maria, which, according to officials, is expected to make landfall on Tuesday. A watch is typically issued 48 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical-storm-force winds, conditions that make outside preparations hard or unsafe. Its Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla has declared a state of emergency as Maria is expected to hit the Caribbean island on Wednesday.More news: Dolphins Suspend LB Lawrence Timmons Indefinitely Following Weekend Disappearance
Once the system moves north of Puerto Rico, the models disagree about what happens next.
Minor to moderate coastal flooding is possible from DE to southern New England during the next several days, a hurricane center forecaster says.
Although no official designation had yet been issued for Puerto Rico, the center said Maria could develop into a hurricane with 110- mph-plus winds by Tuesday afternoon, as it was projected to take aim at the US territory's southern coast.More news: Arkansas, New Mexico State scheduled for early start
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