The Category 5 Hurricane Maria is barreling across the Caribbean, just two weeks after Hurricane Irma devastated several islands throughout the region. The storm left "mind-boggling" damage on the island nation of Dominica. "The winds have swept away the roofs of almost every person I have spoken to or otherwise made contact with," said the prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, on Tuesday. Skerrit's own home was left flooded and without a roof.
Despite a $15 billion relief package from the federal government for United States territories and states hit by record-breaking hurricanes this season, most residents in the U.S. Virgin Islands are still without power due to damage from Irma, and the island chain is still short on generators, shelter kits, food, water, and cots requested in the wake of the last storm. Many of those necessary supplies are on ships just offshore, but ports closed on Sunday night to prepare for Maria.
The National Weather Service warned that Maria could bring "catastrophic damage," with 160 mph winds, nearly 20 inches of rainfall, and storm surges of up to 11 feet, and could leave parts of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico "uninhabitable for weeks or months." The fierce storm is moving slowly across the Caribbean, which means hurricane-force conditions could batter the islands for an extended period of time.
While the hurricane's strength is likely to fluctuate, Maria is expected to pummel Puerto Rico as a Category 4 or 5 storm—the first storm of that strength to hit the island in 85 years. "Puerto Rico sheltered many of the evacuees who fled from other Caribbean Islands during Hurricane Irma earlier this month," CNN reports. "Now those evacuees and native Puerto Ricans are bracing for devastation."