Cat Five Hurricane Maria to Pound Puerto Rico With Winds, Surge, Heavy Rain, Mudslides and Tornadoes

Posted on September 19, 2017

The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season has already caused widespread death and destruction with Harvey and Irma. Category 5 hurricane Maria is the latest threat. It is heading for Puerto Rico after devastating the island of Dominica yesterday. Maria is expected to cross over Puerto Rico on Wednesday. It will also impact the US and British Virgin Islands.

NASA recently shared this 3-D image of Hurricane Maria. It shows a hot tower in the hurricane's eyewall. The dual-frequency radar on the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) satellite captured the hot tower in the compact eyewall of Hurricane Maria on Monday, Sept.18, 2017.

Owen Kelley of NASA Goddard's Precipitation Processing System, says, "Enough water vapor was condensing into rain inside of this cell that rapid updrafts developed, rapid enough to lift the precipitation until it froze and then even higher until it penetrated into the lower stratosphere at 16.75 km altitude. This tall cell (also known as a "hot tower") was part of a sequence of such cells that were seen by infrared satellite instruments, such as the one on the recently launched GOES-16 satellite. Meanwhile, Maria put on an unexpectedly fast intensification from category 1 to category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson scale on Monday (Sept. 18)."

Puerto Rico is expected to feel the full wrath of Hurricane Maria when it crosses over the Caribbean island nation on Wednesday. Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory with over 3.4 million people. The U.S. should be ready to help with the aftermath. There could be widespread devastation in Puerto Rico, which faces extreme winds, heavy rain, mudslides, storm surge and even tornadoes from the extremely powerful hurricane.

The National Weather Service San Juan has issued a local weather statement warning of the potentially catastrophic hurricane. The statement covers Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. It warns of life-threatening winds, rainfall and surge. The warning is similar to those we saw with Cat 5 Hurricane Irma. An addition with Puerto Rico is the possibility of mudslides in the country's mountainous areas. The warning says, "In mountain areas, deadly runoff may rage down valleys while increasing susceptibility to rockslides and mudslides."

The latest advisories for Hurricane Maria can be found on the National Hurricane Center website. It is currently a category 5 with a min pressure of 920 mb and maximum sustained winds of 165 mph. It is smaller in size than Irma was. Maria has hurricane-force winds that extend outward up to 35 miles (55 km) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 140 miles (220 km). Here is a graphic version of the warning provided by the NWS San Juan.

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