The massive storm hit Puerto Rico as a category 5 hurricane. Here's what to know — and how to help.
Hurricane Maria, which strengthened to a category 5 storm on Tuesday, lashed Puerto Rico with 155-mile-per-hour winds. It already left "mind-boggling" damage across the Caribbean island of Dominica and is said to have damaged 65 percent of the U.S. Virgin Island of St. Croix.
While Hurricane Maria has unleashed much of its energy already, and has since been downgraded to a category 3 hurricane, the violent storm could still do serious damage in a region already devastated by Hurricane Irma.
Hurricane Maria Path
Right now, Hurricane Maria’s eye has left Puerto Rico, but the massive storm is still very much a threat to the island territory. Forecasters suspect the island will be subject to severe flooding, as rain will continue to fall throughout the rink (up to 25 inches). Meanwhile, winds are still gusting over Puerto Rico at speeds of 115 miles per hour.
As Hurricane Maria leaves Puerto Rico, it is projected to continue wreaking havoc in the Caribbean. According to CNN, hurricane warnings are in effect for many destinations in the Caribbean, including the Dominican Republic.
Hurricane Maria’s weather — strong winds and storm surges — could even reach Florida, which is just beginning to recover from Hurricane Irma. It’s too soon to say, however, whether the southeastern Bahamas or Florida will be hit.
At this time, the storm’s path leads it along the eastern coast of the Dominican Republic and through Turks and Caicos.
Hurricane Maria Aftermath in Puerto Rico
Hurricane Maria put Puerto Rico directly in its path and became the first category 4 or higher storm to hit the island in 85 years, CNN reported. Hurricane Maria’s damage to Puerto Rico is extensive — on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Puerto Rico governor’s office said the island is “100 percent without power.”
The Hurricane Maria aftermath in Puerto Rico is undoubtedly devastating, but it is still too dangerous for people to go outside and survey the area.
Puerto Rico’s emergency management director Abner Gomez said “the information we have received is not encouraging,” according to CBS News. “[Hurricane Maria is] a system that has destroyed everything in its path.”
Photos of Puerto Rico depict extraordinary flooding that has turned streets into tributaries. Trees have been uprooted and roofs have been ripped off homes and even hurricane shelters.
Hurricane Maria Aftermath in Dominica
Hurricane Maria damage in Dominica has been extensive — reports suggest 90 percent of buildings on the island have been completely destroyed.
Photos of Dominica in the wake of Hurricane Maria show entire neighborhoods leveled, as well as massive amounts of debris. After Hurricane Maria, the death toll in Dominica has risen to seven people.
Communications are limited, with islands hit hardest by Hurricane Maria, but updates are still trickling in. For live Hurricane Maria updates, check the National Hurricane Center’s regular advisories.
How to Donate to Hurricane Maria Victims
Travelers who want to help Hurricane Maria victims — as well as those still reckoning with the damage done by Hurricane Irma — can donate dollars, supplies, or volunteer their time.
It’s possible to help hurricane victims by sending money to approved organizations like Americares, Save the Children, UNICEF, and ConPRmetidos (a local non-profit that will donate supplies and aid specifically to Puerto Rico).
Concerned individuals can also find a local supply drop in town that’s organizing relief efforts, or volunteer with an organization like the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster and the American Red Cross.