CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - 8 PM UPDATE:
Hurricane Maria has officially reached category 5 status. Winds are 160mph, with higher gusts.
The core of Maria will move over Dominica over the next few hours. Hurricane force winds extend out 25 miles. That means even though the eye is not over the island yet, hurricane force winds are. Tropical storm force winds extend out 125 miles. The islands of Martinique, Guadeloupe and Antigua are experiencing those winds. It will be a rough night in the Leeward Islands.
From there, the storm will head WNW at 9mph. It will move into the Caribbean Sea tonight and Tuesday. It will then approach the US and British Virgin Islands, then Puerto Rico Tuesday night and Wednesday.
- Meteorologist Leigh Brock
5 PM UPDATE:
Hurricane Maria is strong… and getting even stronger.
Maria is now a category 4 hurricane with 130mph winds. The storm is moving WNW at 9mph. It looks like the storm will pass right over Dominica over the next few hours. It will also bring high winds and heavy rain to many of the Leeward Islands. The stormy conditions will continue overnight. The next stop will likely be the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico Tuesday night and Wednesday.
Winds are already strong enough but they're getting even stronger. The storm will remain a category 4 storm and perhaps even strengthen to a category 5 over the next few days. However, as of now, it doesn't appear that there will be a landfall on the US mainland.
Hurricane force winds extend 25 miles from the center and tropical storm force winds go out 125 miles.
2 PM UPDATE:
Maria is a category 3 hurricane and continues to strengthen. Winds are currently 125 mph.
The storm is moving WNW at 10mph and could move right over Dominica as a category 3 or even a category 4 storm this evening and tonight.
Unfortunately, the storm is heading for many areas which were so hard hit by Irma just a week ago. The storm seems to be just slightly more to the south of Irma so places like Barbuda and the British Virgin Islands won't likely see the eyewall come over again. However, they will see tropical storm to hurricane force winds once again. That is the last thing they need, with so much damage already there.
This time, it looks like St Kitts & Nevis, the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico will be the more likely islands to have the most direct hit from a major hurricane.
For now, it seems most likely that Maria will remain over the Atlantic and not pose a threat to the US mainland. However, we will continue to watch it.
11 AM UPDATE:
...MARIA RAPIDLY INTENSIFIES INTO A MAJOR HURRICANE... ...THE EYE IS EXPECTED TO MOVE THROUGH THE LEEWARD ISLANDS LATE THIS AFTERNOON OR THIS EVENING...
SUMMARY OF 11AM--- LOCATION...14.7N 60.1W ABOUT 60 MI...95 KM E OF MARTINIQUE ABOUT 95 MI...150 KM ESE OF DOMINICA MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...120 MPH...195 KM/H PRESENT MOVEMENT...WNW OR 285 DEGREES AT 10 MPH...17 KM/H MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...959 MB...28.32 INCHES
6 AM UPDATE:
Our nice - but dry - weather streak goes on. High pressure will keep us high and dry for much of the week. Afternoon readings will hold in the mid 80s, with overnight lows in the mid 60s every day this week along with little chance of rain.
The tropics is where the action is. We now have another menacing hurricane named Maria. The storm is currently producing 90 mph winds and moving toward the Leeward Islands. Unfortunately, that will mean several islands which were just hit hard by Hurricane Irma are in the path again. Guadeloupe and Dominica look like the most likely targets as of now and Maria is forecast to be a major hurricane at the time of impact on Tuesday. The storm will still be a major hurricane later in the week when it is forecast to cross Puerto Rico.
There is also Hurricane Jose with 90 mph winds. This storm looks to continue to head north over the Atlantic and stew around the mid-Atlantic region - but safely stay offshore. Choppy seas and strong rip currents continue to be an issue from North Carolina through coastal New England.
- Meteorologist Al Conklin