After the southern United States and Caribbean islands were hit by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in the last month, people are hoping for a swift end to hurricane season. But that doesn't look to be coming, as yet another named hurricane has formed. Hurricane Maria's projected path takes it through the Caribbean with high wind speeds throughout the week.
It's still early in the life of Hurricane Maria, which is a Category 3 hurricane as of Monday, Sept. 18. Also as of Monday, the Weather Channel says it's too early to determine exactly where Hurricane Maria will hit the United States' East Coast -- if it heads that way in the first place. But, for now, it's decently clear that Maria has the potential to cause some serious problems in the Caribbean, especially on islands still recovering from Hurricane Irma.
As of Monday morning, the storm was 85 miles east of Martinique and heading to hit the Leeward Islands. After that action, the Weather Channel projects that Hurricane Maria will get stronger as it moves through the Caribbean, likely developing into a Category 3 storm.
In particular, Puerto Rico is under watch for a hit from Maria. Four areas of Puerto Rico were given evacuation orders, according to ABC News. The hurricane is projected to make landfall in Puerto Rico by late Wednesday morning, and it may be a Category 4 storm by that point.
Héctor Pesquera, Puerto Rico's public security secretary, made the stakes of Hurricane Maria quite clear.
"Flood prone areas must be abandoned," he said, per ABC News. "If not, you will die."
Clearly, the island is taking the threat of Hurricane Maria pretty damn seriously. Governor Ricardo Rosselló said that he requested a federal emergency declaration, which is a declaration signed by the president to help with aid and relief efforts. Federal emergency declarations were signed for Florida in Hurricane Irma and Texas in Hurricane Harvey, among other federal declarations for those storms.
Hurricane warnings are in effect for Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat, Martinique, and St. Lucia, according to the Weather Channel. There are also hurricane watches in Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Martin, St. Barthelemy, and Anguilla. Even more islands have tropical storm warnings and tropical storm watches.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Virgin Islands are also taking weary precautions in preparation for Hurricane Maria. The Virgin Islands were thrashed by Hurricane Irma at the beginning of September, and four people were killed in the course of that storm.
The residents of the Virgin Islands are still recovering from Irma, and now they're being asked to prepare for Maria. NBC News reported that Governor Kenneth Mapp is warning residents to evacuate, even though it means leaving their homes, which is a hard request to make in the aftermath of Irma.
"It's critical people make the tough decision to walk away from their property and take along what is most important — their loved ones," Mapp said, according to NBC News.
Preparations on the Virgin Islands are happening in a place still in recovery. Mapp said he's "not trying to alarm folks," as he knows "the anxiety is high," according to The New York Times. Still, preparations are being heavily called for on the damaged islands.
It's still early in the projection of Hurricane Maria, but it's never too early to start making preparations in case the storm does end up turning into something really destructive, especially coming in the wake of Hurricane Irma, which followed a similar path.
We'll be keeping an eye out on Hurricane Maria, and I really hope that it takes a different course, veering off without causing more damage. But if it doesn't, let's all prepare to do what we can to help out with recovery.