Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico earlier today as a Category 4 storm. While it had weakened from a Category 5, officials still warned the hurricane is dangerous – forecasters said there could be life-threatening winds blowing for 12 to 24 hours. Governor Ricardo Rossello told the Associated Press, “We have not experienced an event of this magnitude in our modern history.”
Maria hit the southeast coast of Puerto Rico this morning with 155 miles per hour (mph) winds, and could destroy power infrastructure and homes, compelling the government to rebuild dozens of communities, according to the Associated Press. Rossello said, as of Tuesday night over 4,400 people and 105 pets were in shelters. That number increased to 11,229 people and 580 pets by 5AM, according to a tweet from the governor.
When the hurricane is measured by wind speed, Maria ties for the eighth strongest storm in the history of the Atlantic. Hurricanes tend to move north or south of Puerto Rico, so the island often avoids a direct hit. 1932 was the last time a Category 4 hurricane made landfall there, and in 1928, the island experienced the strongest storm to hit it: San Felipe, with 160 mph winds.
The Washington Post said Maria had already blown over islands to the east with over 160 mph winds – on the island Guadeloupe, officials attributed the deaths of two people to the hurricane. At least two people were reported missing near the island of Desirade.
As of Wednesday morning, the National Hurricane Center said a hurricane warning was in effect “for the Virgin Islands, the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas, where Maria is expected to bring dangerous wind, storm surge, and heavy rainfall.”