WASHINGTON, Sept 18 (KUNA) -- Three powerful storms are spinning in the Atlantic with one expected to trace Hurricane Irma's devastating path through the Caribbean, US forecasters said Monday.
In its latest advisory, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said the most powerful of the storms, Hurricane Maria, would quickly intensify in to a major hurricane by late Monday.
Overnight, the Category three hurricane's maximum sustained wind speeds jumped from 90 miles per hour (mph) to 120mph, the NHC reported.
"Additional rapid strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours and Maria is expected to be a dangerous major hurricane as it moves through the Leeward Islands and the northeastern Caribbean Sea," the NHC said.
Hurricane warnings are in place for the US Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat, Martinque and St. Lucia. A hurricane watch is in effect for Puerto Rico, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, St. Martin, St. Barthelemy, and Anguilla.
Maria is tracing Hurricane Irma's course through the Caribbean Islands still recovering from Irma's powerful battering. Maria's first landfall is expected to strike the Leeward Islands late Monday and make another landfall in Puerto Rico on Wednesday.
In response, Puerto Rican officials issued evacuation orders to residents. Maria's arrival comes two weeks to the day since Hurricane Irma tore through Puerto Rico, killed three.
Further North, Hurricane Jose slowly churned off the East Coast of the US with maximum sustained winds near 90 mph with higher gusts. According to the NHC, as the storm cruises up the coast over the next several days it could cause dangerous ocean conditions, powerful gusts, heavy rainfall and isolated flooding from North Carolina to Massachusetts. The storm is expected to stay out at sea and gradually weaken by the weeks-end.
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Lee, with maximum sustained winds at 35mph, weakened into a tropical depression further out in the Atlantic, while Otis strengthened into a hurricane in the Pacific Ocean. Neither is expected to make landfall. (end)