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Maria strengthens to Category 5 hurricane

Hurricane Maria rapidly intensified into a Category 5 storm, prompting warnings for many of the islands devastated by Irma, and making landfall in the Caribbean island of Dominica late Monday. 

Maria, hurling 160 mph winds and heading west-northwest at 9 mph, was centered about 45 miles off the Caribbean island of Martinique early Monday. The National Hurricane Center said the hurricane could be “extremely dangerous.”

The hurricane will affect the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, the center said. The islands of Guadeloupe, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat, Dominica, Martinique, Puerto Rico, Culebra, and Vieques received hurricane warnings.

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Hurricane Maria hit the Caribbean island of Dominica late Monday. 

(NASA/REUTERS)

Tropical storm warnings were issued for Antigua, Barbuda, St. Maarten, St. Lucia, Anguilla, St. Eustatius and Saba. Maria could strike Puerto Rico on Wednesday.

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Gov. Ricardo Rossello warned there could be another power outage. Almost 70,000 people were still left without power since Irma.

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“We have an extremely weak infrastructure that has already been hit by one storm,” Rossello said. “This is going to be a catastrophic event.”

Four-hundred-fifty shelters capable of holding nearly 68,000 people have been set up, the governor said.

Army soldiers wait with their belongings on a beach while evacuating in advance of Hurricane Maria.

Army soldiers wait with their belongings on a beach while evacuating in advance of Hurricane Maria.

(JONATHAN DRAKE/REUTERS)

Schools were closed Monday and government employees only worked half a day ahead of Maria.

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The hurricane could bring 18 inches of rain across the island, forecasters said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency was prepared to head to the island to provide drinking water and help restore power after the storm, officials said.

With News Wire Services

Tags:
hurricane maria
hurricanes
hurricane irma
martinique
puerto rico
dominica
st Kitts and nevis
virgin islands

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