Hurricane Maria forecast to strengthen rapidly and has sight set on Puerto Rico

NEW ORLEANS –  Maria strengthened into a hurricane Sunday afternoon and is forecast to quickly become a major hurricane as its heads towards the Leeward Islands and looks to hit Puerto Rico head on.

As of Sunday evening, Maria had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph, a category one hurricane. Maria is moving to the west-northwest at 15 mph and hurricane watches and warnings are already in effect for the Leeward Islands. Some islands have already been hit hard this season by hurricanes Irma and Jose. By Wednesday, Maria could make landfall on the south shore of Puerto Rico as a Category 3 or 4 storm.

Beyond Puerto Rico, Maria looks to continue on a path similar to Irma taking it into the Turks and Caicos and eventually the Bahamas. Just because the path is similar to Irma at this time DOES NOT mean it will continue to be that way.

Meanwhile to the north, Hurricane Jose continues to moves parallel to the United States coast. Maximum sustained winds with Jose are 90 mph and it’s movement is to the north at 9 mph. While landfall along in the United States is not likely, dangerous surf and rip currents are likely from the Outer Banks to Maine and a tropical storm watch is in effect from the Outer Banks to the Massachusetts-New Hampshire Border.

Jose’s path continues to the north for the next few days before making a turn back into the the Atlantic by the end of the week and weakening back into a tropical storm and eventually a remnant low by Friday.

Well out to the west of Maria, Tropical Depression Lee continues to weaken. Lee is encountering high levels of shear and is expected to degenerate into a tropical wave within 48 hours.