"Extremely Dangerous" Hurricane Maria Became A Category Five Storm In Under A Day


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

Maria seen here in the bottom center. Hurricane Jose can be seen to the east of West Virignia. Tropical Depression Lee can be seen to the right of Maria. CIRA/CSU/NOAA

It’s peak Atlantic hurricane season right now, and it’s been a rather terrifying one by all accounts. Hurricane Harvey stalled over Houston and dumped so much water that Earth’s crust warped. Hurricane Irma devastated the Caribbean and left millions of Floridians without power. Hurricane Jose may have avoided hitting the east coast but now Hurricane Maria’s coming, and it’s not messing about.

Easily the most remarkable thing about Maria is that it went from being a Category One hurricane to a Category Five in just a single day. Although it was briefly downgraded to a Category Four, meteorologists have since upgraded it again to a Category Five, and have pointed out that it isn’t showing any signs of weakening. It’s following the same warm water track as Irma, which suggests two things: it’ll remain strong over time, and it will hit US territory.


Puerto Rico will almost certainly be hit later today, and there’s a small chance that Florida will have to prepare for its second hit in a month. Although it’s difficult to say what kind of damage should be expected, it's worth looking at what destruction it's already wrought. As we explain here, wind speed alone is not the best indicator of a hurricane’s damage potential. 


The island of Dominica was hit while Maria was a Category Five storm. It was hit with winds exceeding 252 kilometers per hour (156 miles per hour), which ripped the roof off Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit's residence as he was giving live updates. “My roof is gone. I am at the complete mercy of the hurricane. House is flooding,” he posted on Facebook.

“Initial reports are of widespread devastation,” Roosevelt Skerrit wrote in a later post. “So far we have lost all what money can buy and replace.”

“So far the winds have swept away the roofs of almost every person I have spoken to or otherwise made contact with.”


Irma has already destroyed several Caribbean Islands, and the last thing they need is another storm heading their way. The Governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosello, in a video posted to Twitter, has warned residents that the impact will exceed that of Irma, a hurricane that only gave the territory a glancing blow.


“This storm is shaping up to be more dangerous, shaping up to have more water, to be slower, bringing higher levels of tide… it will essentially devastate most of the island. It will provoke massive flooding,” Rossello said.

If you are in the path of this hurricane, do not underestimate it. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) explains that it remains “an extremely dangerous hurricane,” and that all evacuation orders must be adhered to.


Good luck, everyone – and remember, don’t take risks with your lives.


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