SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Wednesday is proving to be a day of destruction in Puerto Rico as Hurricane Maria pummels the island with winds and rain lasting some 24 hours in all.
Gov. Ricardo Rosselló has described Maria as the "worst hurricane in modern history in Puerto Rico," and noted its damage could prove to be "catastrophic."
Below is a timeline of Maria as it moves over Puerto Rico, followed by a breakdown of its impact on the U.S. territory and predictions for where the storm may be headed next.
Timeline of the storm
- 8 p.m. Tuesday
- The outer bands of the then-Category 5 hurricane first touch Puerto Rico.
- High winds and rain pummel the country. At its peak, Maria had sustained winds of at least 175 mph.
- 5 a.m. Wednesday
- Maria's winds weaken to 155 mph, prompting the hurricane to be downgraded from a Category 5 to a 4.
- The storm's center is about 50 miles southeast of the capitol, San Juan.
- 6:35 a.m. Wednesday
- Hurricane Maria makes landfall at Yabucoa.
- The storm, which is larger than the size of the entire island, is moving across Puerto Rico at 10 mph.
- 9 a.m. Wednesday
- Maria's eye, or its center, passes west-southwest of San Juan. It will take hours to move over Puerto Rico, according to the hurricane center.
- 1:30 p.m. Wednesday
- The entire island of Puerto Rico is without electricity because of the storm
- 2 p.m. Wednesday
- Maria is downgraded to a Category 3 storm, still packing a punch with maximum sustained winds near 115 mph
- 5 p.m. Wednesday
- The National Hurricane Center reports "catastrophic flash flooding" in portions of Puerto Rico and "deteriorating" conditions in eastern Dominican Republican
- 8 p.m. Wednesday — Maria downgraded to Category 2 hurricane with winds of 110 mph (175 kph). It was centered just off the northwestern corner of Puerto Rico, moving at 12 mph (19 kph).
- Wednesday night/Thursday morning
- The storm will barrel toward the Dominican Republic next
- It is expected to pass off the northeastern coast of the Dominican Republic late Wednesday and Thursday.
What's happening on the ground:
- All of Puerto Rico, home to some 3.3 million residents, is without electricity as of Wednesday afternoon. Nearly 900,000 people were without power, and more than 4,400 people, and 105 pets, were in shelters as of Tuesday evening, the Associated Press reports.
- Few images have been released out of the area, but locals report winds are tearing off roofs, sending doors flying and ripping down trees.
- Winds up to 155 mph were punishing the area as of Wednesday morning, and "life-threatening winds" are expected for 12 to 24 hours, forecasters tell the AP.
- Storm surge could raise water levels by 6 to 9 feet (1.8 to 2.7 meters) near the storm's center.
- About 12 to 18 inches of rain is expected across the islands, with more in isolated areas.
- The storm is moving north-northeast. As of Wednesday morning, its cone was just east of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, meaning it is not expected to make landfall, although forecasters warn this can change.
- While models indicate the hurricane will not make landfall in Cuba, the hurricane center warns tropical-storm-force winds could be felt on the southeastern edge of the island by 8 p.m. Thursday.
- In the U.S., tropical-storm-force winds could be felt across North Carolina's coast overnight Saturday into Sunday morning.
- From there, the storm’s path is not certain. Spaghetti models, which show possible storm paths as predicted by different agencies, show Maria may continue northeast out over the Atlantic. Others, however, forecast the hurricane will move west, making landfall in New York, Washington or Boston. PIX11 meteorologist Byron Miranda says the storm will have weakened by the time it makes its way that far north, and again, it is too soon to know where it may be headed.