News outlets are reporting that Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are preparing for the impact of the extremely dangerous Hurricane Irma, which reached category 5 tonight (Monday, September 18). With sustained winds of up to 180 miles per hour, the hurricane is expected to cross the main island of Puerto Rico, making landfall close to the municipality of Maunabo in the south eastern portion of the island. AP reports that the U.S. National Hurricane Center said María had maximum sustained winds of 160 mph Monday evening. It was centered about 40 miles north of Martinique and 15 miles east-southeast of Dominica, and was heading west-northwest at 9 mph. Pasquines reports:
As of writing time all of Puerto Rico and the USVI is under a Hurricane Warning, which means that hurricane conditions are expected within the area, with preparations to protect life and property needing to be rushed to completion.
Most of the Lesser Antilles will experience at least tropical storm-force winds, beginning with Dominica which will begin to feel the effects of Maria during the next few hours. Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands should expect the first effects on Tuesday night.
Declarations of emergency were signed by the US President for both territories, which were just starting to recover from Hurricane Irma. The declarations enable federal funds to be used to assist in preparation and recovery efforts.
In Puerto Rico, the “dry law” has been enacted by Governor Ricardo Rosselló, prohibiting the sale of alcohol for 48 hours, and prepared food is now exempted from the local sales tax from Thursday till Sunday. The Department of Consumer Affairs froze prices on first necessity items, and ordered stores to ration these. Around 500 shelters have opened across the islands for those who live in unsafe areas, after classes were suspended in the entire public school system since Monday. Rosselló said the hurricane is projected to be “the worst of the century in Puerto Rico,” as he called for citizens to take necessary measures to protect life and property. Puerto Rico has not had a direct impact of a category 5 hurricane since 1928.
Sources: https://pasquines.us/2017/09/18/puerto-rico-us-virgin-islands-prepare-category-5-hurricane-maria/ and http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/hurricane-maria-heads-battered-carib-islands-49921888