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Date TimeSeptember 19, 2017
VoiceHurricane Maria, making its first landfall as a Category 5 storm, has blasted Dominica with "widespread devastation," according to the prime minister of the Caribbean island nation.
With the US territory of Puerto Rico and the US and British Virgin Islands now in its path, Maria's powerful punch diminished only slightly after it hit Dominica Monday night. The hurricane barreled westward as a Category 4 fury with winds at nearly 155 mph (250 km/h), according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

"Some fluctuations in intensity are likely during the next day or two, but Maria is forecast to remain an extremely dangerous category 4 or 5 hurricane while it approaches the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico," the hurricane center said in its 2 a.m. Tuesday update on Maria. The NHC said Maria hit Dominica with winds at top speed of 160 mph.
"Initial reports are of widespread devastation," Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said on Facebook. "So far we have lost all what money can buy and replace. My greatest fear for the morning is that we will wake to news of serious physical injury and possible deaths as a result of likely landslides triggered by persistent rains."
With a population of more than 73,000, the former French and British colony -- an independent nation since 1978 -- has an economy heavily dependent on tourism and agriculture, industries that would be extremely vulnerable to the ravages of a hurricane.
Hurricane Maria is the strongest storm on record to make landfall in Dominica, and it would be the first Category 4 or greater hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in 85 years.
Puerto Rico's governor, Ricardo Rosselló, has declared a state of emergency ahead of that landfall, which will likely happen Wednesday.


The Category 4 storm now churns toward Puerto Rico, where the governor warns of a catastrophe

A hurricane warning from the NHC remains in effect for Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Montserrat, the US and British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Culebra, and Vieques.
The regional government of Guadeloupe tweeted early Tuesday to its residents: "Don't go out under any circumstances."
US President Donald Trump issued an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico for federal assistance to augment the territory's storm-response initiatives.
The ferocity of Maria bears striking similarities to Hurricane Andrew, the Category 5 hurricane that hit the Bahamas and Florida in 1992, says CNN meterologist Pedram Javaheri. Both storms are compact, and Maria's wind speed comes close to that of Hurricane Andrew -- 165 mph -- when it hit southern Florida.

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