WASHINGTON, Sept 21 (KUNA) -- Hurricane Maria moved away from Puerto Rico's northwestern coast late Wednesday after strong winds and flood knocked out electricity to the entire island.
Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico early Wednesday as a powerful Category four storm with winds of 155 miles per hour on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale. The force of the storm system destroyed was so powerful it disabled radar, weather stations and cell towers. Additionally, the storm struck the island's electrical grid, plunging it into in darkness and leaving emergency management officials scrambling.
The Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) said "catastrophic" flooding was sweeping parts of the island.
"It is nothing short of a major disaster," Governor of Puerto Rico Ricardo Rossello told CNN.
The storm weakened by Wednesday evening to a Category two, with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph, but officials predict entire towns will have to be rebuilt. It is the strongest storm to strike Puerto Rico in a century. So far one death has been reported in Puerto Rico, bringing the total fatalities across the region to nine since Maria formed as a Category five storm on Monday.
The NHC issued a hurricane warning for 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 and heavy rainfall Thursday night and Friday.
Maria is the latest in a succession of massive hurricanes in the Caribbean over the last four weeks. Hurricane Irma, which ranked as one of the most powerful Atlantic storms on record, also left a trail of destruction in several Caribbean islands and Florida this month, killing at least 84 people. In late August, Hurricane Harvey flooded parts of Texas and Louisiana with 40 inches of rain leaving 60 people dead.
President Donald Trump declared states of emergency in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, and the Coast Guard moved all its ships, aircraft and personnel out of harm's way so they can quickly launch rescue missions once the storm passes, officials said.(end)