CHRISTIANSTED — Another Category 5 storm is making no mistake about where the U.S. Virgin Islands are.
Catastrophic Hurricane Maria, fresh off of clobbering Dominica last night, continued to make a beeline for St. Croix today.
On Monday, weather weary and wary residents across the territory drove to stores seeking water, batteries, ice, alcohol, generators, food in advance of the 10 a.m. curfew set in.
At 11 a.m. today, the center of Maria was located near 16.3 degrees north, 63.1 degrees west or about 150 miles southeast of St. Croix. A Hurricane Warning remains in effect for the Virgin Islands.
Maria is moving toward the west-northwest near nine miles per hour, and this general motion is expected to continue through Wednesday. On the forecast track, the eye of Maria will move over the northeastern Caribbean Sea on Tuesday and approach the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico Tuesday night and Wednesday.
Reports from a Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that the maximum sustained winds are near 160 mph with higher gusts. Some fluctuations in intensity are likely during the next day or two, but Maria is forecast to remain an extremely dangerous hurricane while it approaches the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 30 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 125 miles. There are reports of significant damage to structures in Dominica where Maria made landfall earlier tonight.
On the current forecast track, the center of Maria will pass within ten miles to the southwest of St. Croix around 4 a.m. Wednesday. Atthat time, Hurricane Maria will be a Category Four Hurricane with sustained winds of 155 miles per hour.
St. Croix will begin to feel the effects of tropical storm force winds (winds between 39-73 miles per hour) around 3 p.m. Tuesday with hurricane force winds (winds stronger than 74 miles per hour) affecting St. Croix for nine hours beginning at 11 p.m. Tuesday. The highest sustained wind forecast for St. Croix will occur around 4 a.m. Wednesday with winds reaching 145 miles per hour.
Hurricane force winds are not forecast for St. Thomas or St. John. However, St. Thomas will experience tropical storm force winds from 8 p.m. on Tuesday until 11 p.m. Wednesday while St. John experiences tropical storm force winds from 7 p.m. Tuesday to 9 p.m. Wednesday.