Powerful Hurricane Maria Forecast To Pass Within 10 Miles Of St. Croix Early Wednesday Morning As A Category 4 Storm
CHRISTIANSTED — A hurricane watch was issued for the territory on Sunday as Maria left residents of Irma-battered St. Thomas and St. John racing to prepare for yet another potentially powerful storm — but people in St. Croix know that THIS storm — is headed here.
Maria was about 100 miles east of Martinique at 5 a.m. AST, the National Hurricane Center said. It added that Maria could develop into a major hurricane by Monday night or early Tuesday.
At 5 a.m., the center of Hurricane Maria was located near 14.6 degrees North, 59.5 degrees West or about 414 miles southeast of the Virgin Islands.
A Hurricane Watch remains in effect for the Virgin Islands. Hurricane Maria is a Category One hurricane but is expected to strengthen into a major hurricane sometime today.
Maria is moving toward the west-northwest near 13 miles per hour and this motion with a decrease in forward speed is expected through Tuesday night.
Maximum sustained winds are near 90 mph with higher gusts. Significant strengthening is forecast during the next two days, and Maria is expected to become a dangerous major hurricane before it moves through the Leeward Islands.
Hurricane-force winds (sustained winds of 74 miles per hour and greater) extend outward up to 15 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds (winds in excess of 39 miles per hour) extend outward up to 105 miles from its center of circulation.
A Hurricane Hunter aircraft is expected to investigate Maria later today.
Based on the 5 a.m. advisory, the center of Hurricane Maria will pass within ten miles of St. Croix at 3 a.m. Wednesday. At that time, Maria is forecast to be a Category Four hurricane with sustained winds of 140 miles per hour.
St. Croix will begin to feel tropical storm force winds around 12 noon on Tuesday continuing through Wednesday at 8 p.m. Hurricane force winds will begin to affect St. Croix at 10 p.m. Tuesday continuing through 8 a.m. Wednesday. Peak sustained winds on St. Croix are forecast for 3 a.m. Wednesday with winds reaching 122 miles per hour.
St. John will begin to feel tropical storm force winds around 3 p.m. Tuesday continuing through 8 p.m. Wednesday with peak winds of 68 miles per hour expected around 5 a.m. Wednesday.
St. Thomas is forecast to begin feeling the effects of tropical storm force winds around 4 p.m. Tuesday continuing through 10 p.m. Wednesday. Peak winds of 71 miles per hour are expected on Wednesday morning around 6 a.m.
President Donald Trump signed an emergency declaration for the territory today, as Hurricane Maria continued to churn towards St. Croix and Puerto Rico as a Category 3 storm.