The storm is headed for Puerto Rico.
Hurricane Maria may still be hundreds of miles away from the Florida coast, but that doesn’t mean meteorologists are taking the threat of this massive storm lightly.
"We may luck out and it turns north before reaching Florida," AccuWeather meteorologist Dave Samuhel told USA Today. "Unfortunately, it looks like blocking high pressure could force it into Florida. Definitely something we are watching."
The storm, which intensified to a category 3 on Monday, is packing a major punch with sustained winds of of 120 mph and gusts of 150 mph.
Sadly, Hurricane Maria’s projected path includes the Leeward Islands, which were badly hit by Hurricane Irma, as well as Puerto Rico, which also sustained damage from the recent storm. As CNN noted, the storm is projected to make landfall in Puerto Rico as a category 3 storm on Wednesday.
Puerto Rico's governor has already declared a state of emergency ahead of the storm’s projected landfall.
"Our call is for people to evacuate areas that are prone to floods and landslides, in addition to vulnerable structures," Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said in a statement. "It is time to seek refuge with a family member, friend, or move to a state shelter because rescuers will not go out and risk their lives once winds reach 50 miles per hour."
Another huge fear, CNN noted, is Maria’s expected arrival in the Virgin Islands. There, communication still remains down following Hurricane Irma and citizens may remain unaware of the impending storm.
"I don't even know if they know that it (Maria) is coming," Issa Alexander, a 22-year-old from Puerto Rico, told CNN. "I can only hope that the same spirit that everybody has — the same God that helped everybody to survive is still looking over them."
Hurricane Maria differs from Irma in its projected path: it is expected to take a sharp northwest turn after making landfall in Puerto Rico, unlike Irma, which continued west before turning and striking Florida. From Puerto Rico, the storm is expected to pass east of Turks and Caicos and head toward the Bahamas, NPR reported.
And while the storm certainly has the makings of a major hurricane, it is nowhere near the size or strength of Irma, according to NPR.
Still, according to the National Hurricane Center, Maria is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 6 to 12 inches, “with isolated maximum amounts of 20 inches across the central and southern Leeward Islands, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, through Wednesday night.”
So really, Maria isn’t a storm to take lightly.