After causing widespread devastation in the Caribbean, Hurricane Maria has taken a turn to the north. The Category 1 storm is bringing tropical storm conditions to the East Coast of the US, including heavy rain, dangerous surf, and potentially life-threatening storm surge.
The National Hurricane Center has urged those on the Carolina and Mid-Atlantic coasts to monitor the particularly large storm. A tropical storm warning is in effect for parts of North Carolina including Albemarle, Pamlico Sounds, and the coastline from Cape Lookout to Duck. Storm conditions are expected to hit that area at some point in the next 36 hours.
A storm surge watch is in effect from Cape Lookout to Duck as well. Storm surge could cause water to rise two to four feet above normal levels on both sides of the Outer Banks, which could cause rapid, life-threatening flooding in normally dry areas.
As of the NHC’s 11 a.m. ET update on Monday, Maria is a large storm with hurricane-force winds extending 90 miles from its center, though mostly to the East. Maria has sustained wind speeds of around 80 mph, with some higher gusts.
The storm is moving north at around 7 mph and is expected to continue slowly in the same direction through Tuesday night. It’s then expected to turn towards the east and to stay offshore.
Maria’s most devastating effects came when the storm slammed parts of the Caribbean, especially the islands of Dominica and Puerto Rico. Roofs across Dominica were torn away and at least 27 were killed on the island, with more still missing.
In Puerto Rico, Maria wiped out almost the entire power infrastructure across the US island. Its 3.5 million residents are expected to be largely without electricity for four to six months. Estimates of the death toll on the island go up to 21 — and that’s expected to rise, since officials have been unable to contact a number of towns. The severe infrastructure loss also means there’s a lack of clean drinking water and that many hospitals are running low on supplies.
Elsewhere in the Atlantic, the storm named Lee became a hurricane over the weekend. Fortunately, Hurricane Lee is in the middle of the Atlantic and expected to remain at sea. Lee is the eighth hurricane of an extremely active Atlantic hurricane season, with more storms still expected to develop before the season’s end on November 30.
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