SAN JUAN (WFLA) – Residents across Puerto Rico awakened to the sounds of heavy rain and life-threatening wind as Hurricane Maria pummeled the island Wednesday morning, tearing off roofs, cutting electricity and phone lines and sending thousands into shelters.
The storm, which already killed 9 in the Caribbean, hit Yabucoa shortly after 6 a.m. as a Category 4 hurricane, packing 155 mph winds. Forecasters predicted it would punish the island for another 12 to 24 hours.
As of 11 a.m., Maria remains a powerful hurricane with 140 mph winds. It’s about 15 miles east-southeast of Arecibo, Puerto Rico and about 25 miles west of San Juan.
“Maria struck the island of Puerto Rico this morning – the first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall there in 85 years. The center of Maria will move off of the northern coast of Puerto Rico during the middle of the day today,” said Storm Team Meteorologist Leigh Spann.
“Mountainous terrain has weakened the storm some but it will likely re-intensify some over the next day or two.”
Flooding and mudslides are a major concern. Governor Ricardo Rossello warned the rain that follows could be even more dangerous than the strong winds they’re experiencing. Forecasters warn water levels near the storm’s center could rise by 6 to 9 feet due to storm surge.
The storm is predicted to bring 10 to 15 inches of rain to Puerto Rico.
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