Hurricane Maria made landfall near Yabucoa, Puerto Rico at 6:15 am Wednesday morning as a Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph winds and has continued to batter the island throughout the day with destructive 140 mph winds, unrelenting rainfall, and surging ocean waters, “accompanied by large and destructive waves,” the National Hurricane Center said.

Maria is the first storm of such magnitude to directly strike Puerto Rico since 1932. The strongest storm to ever hit the island was San Felipe, which had winds of 160 mph, in 1928.

Just two weeks after Hurricanes Irma and Jose ravaged the region, Hurricane Maria has again downed electricity and phone lines and sent thousands of people into shelters and brings with it renewed risk of “life-threatening flooding” to the island.

By noon, parts of the capital of San Juan had lost communication, law enforcement officials told CBS News.

“This is total devastation,” a spokesman for Puerto Rico’s governor told CNN. “Puerto Rico, in terms of the infrastructure, will not be the same.” “First responders cannot go out there,” he warned, echoing the governor’s earlier announcement that emergency crews could not go outside in winds above 50 mph.

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello has asked President Trump to declare the island a disaster zone, which would allow for federal aid from the US.

Maria has already killed seven people on the tiny island nation of Dominica, according to the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, who has been communicating with the Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit of Dominica, and is continuing on a clear path for the British and US Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands, the southeastern Bahamas and the Dominican Republic.

Prime Minister Skerrit described the damage a day earlier as “mind-boggling,” posting on Facebook that he had to be evacuated after winds had torn the roof clean off his official residence.

The Category 4 hurricane hit Puerto Rico with such intensity, it broke two National Weather Service radars on the island, CNN reported.

“My message now is not to leave your houses until the situation is over,” Felix Delgado Montalvo, the mayor of Cataño — a town in northern PR where Maria tore off the roofs of several houses and shredded the roof of the town’s church — told residents on a local radio station on Wednesday.

“We have a big one going right now,” Mr. Trump commented during a break in his meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah in New York. “I’ve never seen winds like this, and Puerto Rico, you take a look at what’s happening there, and it’s just one after another, but I think we are doing a good job.”

– Staff
 

 

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