HOUSTON - From the safely of Texas, where there are no impending threats from any tropical systems during the next few weeks, we track Category 5 Hurricane Maria. The storm decimated the island of Dominca Monday night and is set to rip through Puerto Rico Wednesday. This track could lead to significant loss-of-life and paralyzing damage to the Islands structures/roads and tourism economy. The system is expected to either maintain its powerful Category 5 status, or perhaps drop to a Category 4. The last major hurricane was Hugo in 1989, which barely clipped the Island. Before then there were only a handful of Cat 1's and Cat 2's during the 20th century.
Maria's forecast track is similar to the last Category 5 hurricane to slam Puerto Rico. Known as the, "San Felipe II" hurricane of 1929, it decimated the banana and coffee crops for the year, in addition to loss of life and property impacts. Then, the population was around 1.5 million people. Today it's more than doubled, to around 3.4 million. Needless to say, property impacts will be massive since there are more homes and buildings -- and winds over 150mph could rip apart vital infrastructure, destroying the tourism industry for a long time and sending the financially-struggling Island into further economic despair.
Godspeed, Puerto Rico.
UPDATE 9/20/17 11am : Maria made landfall as a Cat 4 earlier this morning in Puerto Rico. It's being widely reported that this was the strongest hurricane since 1932, rather than 1928, as I reported in this article. The 1928 hurricane was a Cat 5. The 1932 hurricane is being reported as a Cat 4 (though one official source called the 1932 storm a Cat 2.) San Juan radar reported winds of 165mph at landfall, which is Cat 5 territory, though officially the NHC says it was a Cat 4. If the 1932 hurricane was indeed a Cat 4 for Puerto Rico, than saying, "Maria was the strongest since 1932" is appropriate. These are just classifications... Either way, the Island is in ruin with potential loss-of-life and great suffering due to wind damage and flooding.
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