Accra, Sept. 18 - (UPI/GNA) - Barely a week
after Hurricane Irma tore through, a number of islands in the Caribbean are now
bracing for a direct hit from yet another major hurricane -- this time Maria.
The storm is swirling in the eastern Caribbean and is expected to become a major hurricane -- Category 3, minimum -- by early Tuesday as it heads for the Leeward Islands, the National Hurricane Center said Monday morning.
In its 5 a.m. advisory, forecasters said Maria was located about 100 miles east of Martinique and 130 miles east-southeast of Dominica, with winds of 90 mph as it moved west-northwest at a speed of 13 mph.
"The center of Maria will move across the Leeward Islands late today and tonight and then over the extreme northeastern Caribbean Sea Tuesday," the NHC said Monday.
Several islands battered by Category 5 Irma are under hurricane advisories. A hurricane warning is in effect for Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat, and Martinique -- and hurricane watches have been issued for Puerto Rico, Vieques, Culebra, U.S. Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Saba and St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, St. Martin and St. Barthelemy, and Anguilla.
Forecasters say Maria will likely experience significant strengthening to a major hurricane in the next 48 hours, bringing dangerous wind, storm surge, and rainfall hazards.
So far, Maria is following a similar path that Irma travelled -- west-northwest through the Caribbean. Monday, forecasters expected Maria will ultimately turn sharply north, and potentially threaten the middle of the U.S. East Coast.
Rain accumulations of 6 to 12 inches, with isolated maximum amounts of 20 inches, are forecast across the Leeward Islands, including Puerto Rico as well as the U.S. and British Virgin Islands -- residents of which have barely returned evacuating for Irma -- through Wednesday night.