By Samantha Schmidt, Mark Berman, and Sandhya Somashekhar
20 September 2017

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (The Washington Post) – Hurricane Maria roared ashore Wednesday as the strongest storm to strike Puerto Rico in more than 80 years, knocking out power to nearly the entire island and leaving frightened people huddled in buildings hoping to ride out withstand powerhouse winds that have already left death and devastation across the Caribbean.

"On the forecast track, [Maria] would be the most destructive hurricane in Puerto Rico history," tweeted Eric Blake, a forecaster at the Hurricane Center.

The storm first slammed the coast near Yabucoa at 6:15 a.m. as a Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph winds — the first Category 4 storm to directly strike the island since 1932. By midmorning, Maria had fully engulfed the 100-mile-long island as winds snapped palm trees, peeled off rooftops, sent debris skidding across beaches and roads, and cut power to nearly the entire island.

In Guayama, on Puerto Rico's southern coast, video clips posted on social media showed a street turned into a river of muddy floodwaters. San Juan buildings shook and glass windows shattered from the force of the storm. Residents of some high-rise apartments sought refuge in bathrooms and first-floor lobbies.

"Resist, Puerto Rico," Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló tweeted. "God is with us; we are stronger than any hurricane. Together we will lift up."

The El Nuevo Dia newspaper quoted the governor as saying power outages had hit up to 90 percent of the island. "We must expect that at some point there will be a total lack of electrical energy," Rosselló said.

Speaking on NBC's Today show Wednesday, Rosselló said conditions were "deteriorating rapidly."

"This is clearly going to be the most devastating storm in the history of our island," he said, adding that it will take another half day for the worst part to hit. [more]

Hurricane Maria hammers Puerto Rico with force not seen in ‘modern history’


VIIRS infrared satellite image of Hurricane Maria moving just west of St. Croix while at Cat 5 strength at 2:13 am EDT Wednesday, 20 September 2017. Photo: NOAA / CIMMS / UM-Madison

By Bob Henson
20 September 2017

(Weather Underground) – Ferocious Hurricane Maria made landfall around 6:15 am EDT Wednesday near Yabucoa in far southeast Puerto Rico as a top-end Category 4 storm, with peak sustained winds estimated at 155 mph.

Maria was the second strongest hurricane ever recorded to hit Puerto Rico, behind only the 1928 San Felipe Segundo hurricane, which killed 328 people on the island and caused catastrophic damage. Puerto Rico’s main island has also been hit by two other Category 4 hurricanes, the 1932 San Ciprian Hurricane, and the 1899 San Ciriaco Hurricane.

  • In terms of top sustained wind, Maria is the fifth strongest hurricane on record to hit the U.S. behind only the four Cat 5s to hit the country (Hurricane Andrew of 1992 in South Florida, Hurricane Camille of 1969 in Mississippi, the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 in the Florida Keys, and the 1928 hurricane in Puerto Rico.)
  • In terms of lowest atmospheric pressure at landfall, Maria (917 mb) ranks third in U.S. records behind only the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane and Camille.
  • Maria's landfall at Category 4 strength gives the U.S. a record three Category 4+ landfalls this year (Maria, Harvey, and Irma). The previous record was two such landfalls, set in 1992 (Cat 5 Andrew in Florida, and Cat 4 Iniki in Hawaii.)

Maria did not hit Puerto Rico as a Category 5 hurricane, thanks to an eyewall replacement cycle (ERC) that began on Tuesday night. The storm’s “pinhole” eye, less than 10 miles wide, was supplemented by an outer eyewall that contracted around the smaller one. The process helped lead to the slight weakening of Maria’s top winds, but it also likely broadened its core of winds topping 100 mph. […]

Yabucoa Harbor in southeast Puerto Rico, near where the center of Maria made landfall, recorded sustained winds of 71 mph gusting to 99 mph at 7:06 am EDT. A peak wind gust of 113 mph was observed there at 5:12 am. Other wind gusts across Puerto Rico as of early Wednesday morning, as compiled by weather.com, included:

  • Isla Culebrita: 137 mph
  • Camp Santiago: 118 mph
  • El Negro: 116 mph
  • Gurabo: 115 mph
  • Yabucoa: 113 mph
  • Fajardo: 100 mph

According to the Quicklook page at NOAA’s Tides and Currents, Yabucoa Harbor recorded a peak storm surge of approximately 5.3’ as of 8 am EDT Wednesday.

First-light GOES-16 satellite image of Hurricane Maria taken at 7:15 am EDT 20 September 2017. Maria's eye was obscured by clouds due to interactions with land. Photo: NOAA / RAMMB

At 8 am EDT Tuesday, Maria was centered about 15 miles south-southwest of San Juan, PR, moving northwest at 10 mph. A sustained wind of 64 mph, gusting to 113, was reported at San Juan, Puerto Rico at 7 am, but the airport is no longer reporting winds. Maria will cut a destructive swath across Puerto Rico from southeast to northwest on Wednesday morning, with its center moving offshore from the north central coast by late morning. The mountainous terrain of Puerto Rico will disrupt Maria’s core, probably leaving the storm as a Category 3 by the time it moves back offshore midday Wednesday. Maria’s track is putting the dangerous right-hand side of Maria’s core over or near the San Juan metropolitan area. [more]

Maria Slams St. Croix, Rips Across Puerto Rico

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