New storm Maria a growing threat to Irma-slammed Caribbean
In this Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017 photo, a woman carries a baby past downed power lines felled by Hurricane Irma in Caibarien, Cuba, where seawater surged three blocks inland. The most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the open Atlantic eventually claimed dozens of lives as it tore up the Caribbean and the southeastern United States. Still more are dying in its aftermath. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
The Associated Press
Published Sunday, September 17, 2017 9:42AM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, September 17, 2017 2:59PM EDT
MEXICO CITY - The hurricane-battered islands of the Caribbean are facing yet another storm threat: Forecasters said Sunday that Tropical Storm Maria is likely to hit the Leeward Islands as a strengthening hurricane by Monday night.
Hurricane watches were in effect for many of the very islands still trying to cope with the devastation left by Hurricane Irma, including St. Martin, St. Barts and Antigua and Barbuda.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Maria was likely to grow into a hurricane on Sunday and swell into major hurricane status by midweek as it heads for Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
The storm had maximum sustained winds of 65 mph (100 kph) Sunday afternoon. It was centred about 405 miles (655 kilometres) southeast of the Lesser Antilles and was heading west-northwest at 15 mph (24 kph).
The Hurricane Center said hurricane conditions should begin to affect parts of the Leeward Islands by Monday night, with storm surge raising water levels by 4 to 6 feet (1.2 to 1.83 metres) near the storm's centre.
The storm is likely to bring 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 centimetres) of rain across the islands, with more in isolated areas.
Meanwhile, long-lived Hurricane Jose was moving northward off the U.S. Atlantic Seaboard, kicking up dangerous surf and rip currents. But it wasn't expected to make landfall.
It was centred about 355 miles (575 kilometres) south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and was moving north at 9 mph (15 kph). It had maximum sustained winds of 90 mph (150 kph).
In the Pacific, Tropical Storm Norma's threat to Mexico's Los Cabos area appeared to be easing. Forecasters said the storm was weakening and its centre was likely to remain offshore.
The storm had winds of about 45 mph (75 kph) and it was centred about 140 miles (225 kilometres) south-southwest of Cabo San Lucas. That area was hit two weeks ago by Tropical Storm Lidia, which flooded streets and homes and killed at least four people.
The Baja California Sur state government readied storm shelters and cancelled classes for Monday as well as calling off a Mexican Independence Day military parade in the state capital, La Paz.
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Lee slipped back to tropical depression force in the Atlantic and Tropical Storm Otis was gaining force fall out in the Pacific. Neither threatened land.