Reports: Torrential rain continues to devastate Puerto Rico as Hurricane Maria takes aim at Turks and Caicos

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, AccuWeather staff writer
September 21, 2017, 9:25:28 AM EDT

Significant damage has been reported across Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as Hurricane Maria lashes the northern Caribbean islands.

Maria became the second Category 5 hurricane of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, but was downgraded to a Category 4 hurricane shortly before making landfall in Puerto Rico around 6:15 a.m. AST Wednesday.

Maria is the first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall in Puerto Rico since the San Ciprian hurricane in 1932.

Conditions will gradually improve across Puerto Rico into Thursday as Maria makes its way to the northwest toward the Turks and Caicos and Bahamas.

Dominica took a direct hit from Maria on Monday night shortly after it strengthened into a Category 5 hurricane. This is the first recorded Category 5 hurricane to make landfall in Dominica. Tropical Storm Erika devastated the island just two years ago, killing at least 31 people.

Maria early Thursday morning floater 9.21.17

Satellite imagery shows Hurricane Maria Thursday morning as it treks toward Turks and Caicos. (Image/NOAA)

Maria to threaten lives, property in the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos
2017 Atlantic hurricane season is far from over; US remains at risk for additional strikes
How close will Hurricane Maria track to the US East Coast?

For previous reports on Maria, click here.

The Bahamas government has issued a Tropical Storm Watch for the central Bahamas in preparation for a possible threat from Maria.

The Category 3 storm's eye is of the Dominican Republic as of 8:58 a.m. AST. Meanwhile, heavy downpours continue to threaten Puerto Rico.

Flash flood warnings are in effect for all of Puerto Rico as heavy rains from continue. For more information, follow @NWSSanJuan

— NHC Atlantic Ops (@NHC_Atlantic)

The U.S. Virgin Islands are dealing with extensive damage following Maria, the second major hurricane to hit the islands in a span of two weeks.

2nd Cat 5 hurricane this month. #usvi #maria #jeep #jeepwrangler #hurricane #stthomas #vistrong #flood

A post shared by Dan Beyer (@island.dan) on

puerto rico maria ap

People walk next to a gas station flooded and damaged by the impact of Hurricane Maria, which hit the eastern region of the island, in Humacao, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, September 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

Hurricane Maria is more than 70 miles from Punta Cana as it moves northwestward at 9 mph. It is barreling towards Turks and Caicos. As of 5:45 a.m. Thursday, the storm is about 200 miles from Grand Turk Island.

The death toll has risen in Dominica. According to WIC News, at least 24 people have died after Hurricane Maria decimated the island earlier this week. At least 15 of those deaths happened at Pointe Michel. The death toll is expected to rise, but those numbers have not been confirmed yet.

Dominica is still under a curfew from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m.

Major Hurricane Maria is back to a Category 3 storm. The National Hurricane Center's 2 a.m. update for Thursday says the hurricane has sustained winds of 115 mph and is moving northwest at a speed of 9 mph. Maria is currently 55 miles from Punta Cana, which is on the eastern shore of the Dominican Republic. The popular tourist destination recently recorded a wind gust of 66 mph.

As of early Thursday morning, President Donald Trump declared. This will release funding for individuals affected my Hurricane Maria on St. Croix.

More devastation video coming out of Dominica

— Shea Gibson (@WeatherFlowCHAS)

Catastrophic Flash Flooding continues with multiple Flash Flood Warnings in effect.

— NWS San Juan (@NWSSanJuan)

The Hurricane Warning for Puerto Rico, Culebra, and Vieques has been discontinued. The storm is currently 260 miles southeast of Grand Turk Island, and 55 miles northeast of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Sustained winds are 110 mph, and Maria is moving northwest at 9 mph.

As of 8:30 p.m. AST Wednesday, flash flood warnings remained in effect for a majority of the island, including in the capital of San Juan.

The weather radar on the island has been down since Maria made landfall on Wednesday morning, but weather satellites indicate that the excessive rainfall in the area is capable of producing major flooding and even mud slides on some of the steeper terrain.

Many people are worried that extended power outages in Puerto Rico could sink struggling businesses, according to the Associated Press. It may take before power is fully restored to Puerto Rico.

People planning to visit Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands in the coming weeks may want to consider postponing their trip until the islands are able to recover from the damage caused by Maria and Irma.

Maria US Virgin Islands AP

Trees stand barren and debris lays on the roadside, caused by Hurricane Maria in Road Town, on the island of Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands, early Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Freeman Rogers)

Gov. Ricardo Rossello announced a curfew in Puerto Rico, starting at 6 p.m. AST and lasting until 6 a.m. AST each day into Saturday.

The airport at San Juan is also expected to be closed until at least next week due to damage from Hurricane Maria.

El será de 6pm a 6am, desde hoy miércoles hasta el sábado a las 6am. Las excepciones se detallan en declaraciones emitidas.

— Ricardo Rossello (@ricardorossello)

Just spoke with San Juan airport official- airport will be closed at least a week due to damage.

— Chris Bianchi (@BianchiWeather)

Conditions are slowly improving across the U.S Virgin Islands as Maria shifts away from the islands. Evidence of Maria's devastating impacts are evident across St. Croix with many structures sustaining significant damage.

fema damage

Damage in St. Croix on Wednesday after the worst of Maria had passed. (Photo/FEMA)

Although the entire island of Puerto Rico is without power, some people are still able to post updates and photos on social media. Some of the damage photos emerging show flooded roads and trees that have been stripped of their leaves due to strong winds.

The eye of Hurricane Maria has moved offshore and is located just north of Puerto Rico, but damaging winds and flooding rain are expected to continue into Wednesday night.

Tratando de llegar a Bayamón para saber de mi madre y abuela. La calle está fea. #HurracaineMaria #MariaPR

— Josué McGrath (@josuemcgrath)

The U.S. Virgin Islands, which have already been battered by Hurricane Irma, have now suffered significant damage from Maria.

As of 2:24 p.m. AST Wednesday, here is a look at some of the top wind gusts in Puerto Rico from Maria.

wind gusts 2:30 pm wed maria

The entire island of Puerto Rico is now without power, according to multiple news reports. Earlier Wednesday, Gov. Rosello asked President Trump to declare the island a disaster area.

El 100% de Puerto Rico está sin energía eléctrica en este momento.

— B. Torres Gotay (@TorresGotay)

JUST IN: 100% of Puerto Rico is without power amid Hurricane , Puerto Rico OEM tells @ABC News.

— ABC News (@ABC)

As of 12:03 p.m. AST Wednesday, Maria is delivering record- and life-threatening flooding in Puerto Rico.

Several gauges reported record levels along the Rio Grande De Manati and Rio Grande de Arecibo rivers.

river gauge maria

(Image/NWS Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service)

maria river gauge 2

The below tweet shows severe flooding on the La Plata River.

This river in central Puerto Rico is running an incredible 17 feet above the previous record high flood stage.

— Brett Anderson (@BrettAWX)

In addition to the staggering floods, hurricane-force winds have been reported around Puerto Rico and even on neighboring islands.

A wind gust of 113 mph was reported in San Juan with a gust of 137 mph reported on Isla Culebrita.

Gov. Ricardo Rosello said 80 to 90 percent of the island was without power and he expected the entire island to lose power eventually.

Maria is the first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall on Puerto Rico since 1932.

In its 11 a.m. AST Wednesday update, the National Hurricane Center says the center of Maria is approaching the northern coast of Puerto Rico. It is currently 15 miles east-southeast of Arecibo, Puerto Rico.

Maria is moving to the northwest at around 12 mph with maximum sustained winds of 140 mph.

One report states that 80 percent of the structures in the community of Juana Matos, located in the city of Catano, Puerto Rico, have been destroyed.

Alcalde de Cataño estima que el 80% de las estructuras en la comunidad Juana Matos quedaron destruidas. Detalles #HuracánMaría

— B. Torres Gotay (@TorresGotay)

The Guayama River has overflowed its banks and is now inundating neighborhoods as of 9:35 a.m. AST. Flash flood emergencies are in place around Puerto Rico.

Flash flood emergency for Rio Grande de Manati. This covers Florida, Barceloneta, Ciales and Manati until 400 PM.

— NWS San Juan (@NWSSanJuan)

This aerial shot shows the inundated Hato Rey section of San Juan.

In a Wednesday morning Facebook Hartley Henry, the principal advisor to Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit of Dominica, said there is a "tremendous loss" of housing and public buildings on the islands.

"It's difficult to determine the level of fatalities but so far seven are confirmed as a direct result of the hurricane," Henry stated.

There has been little communication with outer communities, but reports from people who walked 10 to 15 miles toward the city of Roseau report total destruction of homes, roads and crops.

Urgent helicopter services are needed to take food, water and tarpaulins to outer districts for shelter, according to Henry.

"In summary, the island has been devastated," he wrote.

At least eight deaths have been confirmed from Maria in the Caribbean as of 8:08 a.m. AST Wednesday, the Associated Press reports.

maria emergency management

Rescue team members Candida Lozada, left, and Stephanie Rivera, right, merge into a hug desperate to go out to attend several calls for help from citizens in need of assistance during the impact of Maria.

Extreme winds from Maria are pounding Fajardo, Puerto Rico.

As of 7:17 a.m. AST Wednesday, the National Weather Service in San Juan said the San Juan metro area will experience winds of 115 mph or greater for the next two to three hours.

Maria made landfall near Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, at 6:15 a.m. AST Wednesday, as a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph.

Puerto Rican news outlet Radio Isla 1320 reports more than 884,000 customers without power.

At least two people have been reported dead in Guadeloupe after the island suffered Maria's wrath on Tuesday. According to TeleSur TV, one man fell out of a tree, and another's body was found near the ocean. Local officials said 40 percent of homes are without power, and 25 percent are without phone service.

Flooding has been reported in Puerto Rico. One creek overran its banks in Guarbo earlier Wednesday morning. On the Rio de le Plata, water has risen from 6 to 21 feet in less than 12 hours. The river is considered to have reached flood stage at 11 feet.

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