Evacuation orders have been issued in Puerto Rico, as Hurricane Maria is expected to hit the already storm-battered Caribbean islands as a Category 4 storm. Puerto Rico and the US and British Virgin Islands are forecast to take the hardest blows.
The US territory of Puerto Rico is preparing for a Category 4 hurricane to hit the island Wednesday morning. Starting midday Tuesday, conditions will begin to deteriorate and the island could get between 12 and 18 inches of rain, according to Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello.
“Flood prone areas must be abandoned,” Public Security Secretary Héctor Pesquera said. “If not, you will die.” Officials have ordered four areas to be evacuated.
Hurricane Irma passed near Puerto Rico less than two weeks ago, leaving three people on the island dead and around one million without electricity.
But Irma largely spared the island, passing about 50 miles to the north and causing mainly wave damage.
Puerto Rico has not been hit by a Category 5 hurricane since 1928. The last major Category 4 storm struck in 1932.
Both the US and British Virgin Islands, on the other hand, were devastated by Irma, which left “apocalyptic” damage in its wake, according to Stacey Plaskett, US Virgin Islands delegate to the House of Representatives. Irma killed four people on the US side of the islands, and another four on the British.
US Virgin Islands authorities pleaded with residents on Sunday to abandon already-damaged properties.
“It’s critical people make the tough decision to walk away from their property and take along what is most important — their loved ones,” Governor Kenneth Mapp said.
“Maria is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 6 to 12 inches with isolated maximum amounts of 20 inches across the central and southern Leeward Islands, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, through Wednesday night,” the National Hurricane Center warned.
Tropical storm warnings and watches were issued for Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Martinique, and Antigua and Barbuda, among others.
Most models, as of Monday morning, are forecasting Maria to stay away from Florida and the United States mainland.
More than 40 people were killed earlier this month, as Category 5 Hurricane Irma battered islands in the Caribbean.