FIRST ALERT: Hurricane Maria strikes Puerto Rico as Cat 4 storm - | WBTV Charlotte

FIRST ALERT: Hurricane Maria strikes Puerto Rico as Cat 4 storm

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico early Wednesday morning as a strong Category 4 storm packing winds of 155 mph. Maria is the strongest storm to strike the island since the 1930s.

Like any hurricane over land, Maria weakened a bit but now that the storm is back over warm ocean water and will likely get a recharge over the next day or so.

At 11 a.m. Wednesday - the National Hurricane Center sent out the latest information on Maria's track.

  • LOCATION...18.4N 66.5W
  • ABOUT 15 MI...25 KM ESE OF ARECIBO PUERTO RICO
  • ABOUT 25 MI...40 KM W OF SAN JUAN PUERTO RICO
  • MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...140 MPH...220 KM/H
  • PRESENT MOVEMENT...NW OR 305 DEGREES AT 12 MPH...19 KM/H
  • MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...930 MB...27.47 INCHES

Going forward, Maria is expected to turn north-northwest late in the week and remain east of the Bahamas.  From there, the official National Hurricane Center track keeps the storm off the US east coast, shooting north early next week between North Carolina and Bermuda.

That forecast may very well work out perfectly.  Let’s hope so, as in that scenario the only real impact to the Carolina coast would be rough surf and strong rip currents which would start this weekend.

But a couple of things make me just a little nervous about that forecast.

First, some of the most reliable models suggested that Maria would miss Puerto Rico to the north and on Tuesday the official track had the storm barely brushing the northeast tip of the island, pushing north of San Juan.  Instead, Maria made landfall well south of San Juan and tracked right across the middle part of the island.

And think back to Irma.  Irma was once forecast to pass north of Puerto Rico by 600 miles, according to the Global Forecast Solution (GFS) model.  It didn’t.  And right up until landfall in the Florida Keys, the forecast was always adjusting Irma to the west.  West, west, west.

Lastly, Jose is still swirling around the mid-Atlantic region south of New England. Jose was supposed to be 600 miles off the North Carolina coast Tuesday as it pushed north.  Jose was instead 200 miles or so and the Outer Banks got blasted with rain and wind. The Outer Banks even had streets covered up in sand and sea water.

I hope and pray Maria has no impact on the Carolinas, and maybe it won’t.  But the models continue to subtly push west with every run and I think you’ll see the NHC forecast follow suite.

Certainly nothing to panic about, but at the same time I think it would be foolish to turn our back on Maria at this point, thinking it as a “fish storm”.  It's way too early in the game to do that and so I’ll be monitoring and you should as well. 

Just in case.

- Meteorologist Al Conklin

6:00 A.M. UPDATE - 

Summer 2017 is ending on a warm note. We have very low rain chances and afternoon readings in the mid to upper 80s for the rest of the week. Overnight lows will be in the mid 60s. Fall officially arrives on Friday but it won't feel like it. The weekend is expected to stay warm and dry with temperatures remaining above the average high of 80°.

The tropics aren't nearly as quiet. First, there's Jose. The storm is gradually weakening but is still bringing dangerous surf and rip currents to the northeast coast for a few more days.

The more dangerous storm is Hurricane Maria. It is currently a Category 4 storm and is heading directly for Puerto Rico Wednesday morning. As of now, the storm looks like it will begin to turn more north after that. Almost all of the models keep the storm off the US coast into next week.  We'll be monitoring and hoping that forecast holds true. 

FIRST ALERT: Eye of Hurricane Maria getting dangerously close to St Croix

FIRST ALERT: Maria upgraded to 'extremely dangerous' category 5 hurricane

- Meteorologist Al Conklin

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