Hurricane Maria pounds Caribbean, targets U.S. islands

KHOU 11's Shern-Min Chow and Brooks Garner report

ROSEAU, Dominica (CBS NEWS) -- Hurricane Maria is slamming the Caribbean as a powerful storm. It made landfall Monday night on the island of Dominica with Category 5 strength.

Dominica's prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, said there were reports of "widespread devastation" throughout the small island. He said the storm's winds ripped the roofs off his home -- as well as many other buildings. There were no immediate reports of deaths, but Skerrit said he would assess the damage when the storm has passed.

Track Maria: Visit KHOU.com's Hurricane Central

Maria is targeting other islands that did not get the full fury of Hurricane Irma earlier this month. Those islands include St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

The public safety chief in Puerto Rico told people in the path of the storm, "You have to evacuate. Otherwise you're going to die."

Follow along below for live updates on the storm. All times are Eastern unless otherwise noted.

About 25,000 households lost electricity and two small towns are without potable water after Hurricane Maria roared past the French island of Martinique.

The head of French civil security, Jacques Witkowski, told reporters in Paris on Tuesday that it was too soon to say whether the French archipelago of Guadeloupe was so lucky. Communications there have been difficult. He says two people suffered minor injuries.   

The prefect, or highest French official, of Guadaloupe, Eric Maire, said in a video via Twitter that some roads and homes were flooded and heavy rain is expected to continue. He told island residents to "remain inside" amid the flood threat and warnings by forecasters of possible landslides.

France is upping its manpower in the region, with two flights taking off on Tuesday, the first carrying 160 firefighters and military personnel to Martinique.

12:30 p.m.: Families anxiously await updates from Dominica

Family and friends of people studying at Ross University School of Medicine in Dominica are anxiously trying to find news of their loved ones following the passage of Hurricane Maria.   

The school says there is widespread loss of communication on the island.   

Many messages posted on Facebook by friends and family say they have been unable to talk to students since late Monday evening as the storm approached.   

One woman says her husband spoke to their daughter at 6 p.m. as the storm was in full force. She wrote that her daughter was "very scared but safe with friends." But she has not heard from her since.

12:21 p.m.: Florida governor urges residents to watch Maria

Florida Gov. Rick Scott says his state's citizens should carefully monitor Hurricane Maria, which is forecast to veer out into the Atlantic and miss the state. But Scott reminded people on Tuesday that Hurricane Irma's path shifted as it approached the U.S., causing devastation to the state.

Scott encouraged people to restock their hurricane kits, buy water and have an evacuation plan. About 2 percent of the state's electric customers are still without power due to Irma, he said.

 

11:52 a.m.: Virgin Islands expect direct hit from Maria

U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. Kenneth Mapp says that the track of Hurricane Maria has shifted and the eye is now expected to pass over the southwestern tip of St. Croix.

That means parts of the island are expected to experience the full force of the storm's winds that have now reached 160 mph. Conditions are expected to deteriorate Tuesday night with the approach of the "extremely, extremely dangerous hurricane."

The Virgin Islands are already reeling from Hurricane Irma, which passed over the islands of St. Thomas and St. John.

Mapp warned that Maria is expected to bring up to 12 inches of rain to St. Jo

MORE: Complete coverage from CBS NEWS

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