Category 5 storm: ‘You’re going to die’
WHEN it comes to Mother Nature, she knows no bounds.
As Hurricane Maria intensified into a dangerous Category 5 storm and pounded the little island of Dominica, its prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, found himself in the eye of the beast's path.
The hurricane has surged into the eastern Caribbean and forecasters warn it might become even stronger as it swallowed the tiny island within its stormy grip.
The eye has passed across the centre of Dominica in shocking tweets that show the island nation almost completely out sight.
"Where we are, we can't move," Inspector Pellam Jno Baptiste told The Guardian.
As Maria surged forward, she almost took prime minister Skerrit with her. The PM was posting on his official page that his "roof is gone" and that he is "at the complete mercy of the hurricane".
He had earlier warned that "we should treat the approaching hurricane very, very seriously.
"This much water in Dominica is dangerous."
Hurricane Maria made landfall on Dominica as a maximum-strength Category Five storm bearing down on eastern Caribbean islands still reeling from Irma, US forecasters said. The monster storm touched down with top winds swirling at 257km/h, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said, citing radar data from Martinique and air force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft.
Prime minister Skerrit posted later with a simple: "I have been rescued".
Dominica authorities had closed schools and government offices and urged people to move from dangerous areas to shelters.
In August 2015, Tropical Storm Erika unleashed flooding and landslides that killed 31 people and destroyed more than 370 homes on the small, mountainous island.
'YOU'RE GOING TO DIE'
Officials on nearby Guadeloupe said the French Island would experience extremely heavy flooding and warned that many communities could be submerged overnight.
In Martinique, authorities ordered people to remain indoors and said they should prepare for cuts to power and water. Schools and non-essential public services were closed.
With Puerto Rico appearing destined for a hit, officials in the US territory warned residents of wooden or otherwise flimsy homes to find safe shelter.
"You have to evacuate. Otherwise you're going to die," said Hector Pesquera, Puerto Rico's public safety commissioner.
"I don't know how to make this any clearer."
The US territory imposed rationing of basic supplies including water, milk, baby formula, canned food, batteries and flashlights.
'THE DREADED PINHOLE EYE'
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Maria had maximum sustained winds of 260km/h on Monday evening. It was heading west-northwest at 15km/h.
"Maria is developing the dreaded pinhole eye," the center warned.
That's a sign of an extremely strong hurricane likely to get even mightier, said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy. Just like when a spinning ice skater brings in their arms and rotates faster, a smaller, tighter eye shows the same physics, he said.
Maria's eye shrank to a narrow 16 kilometres across.
"You just don't see those in weaker hurricanes," McNoldy said.
Hurricane warnings were posted for the US and British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Kitts, Nevis and Montserrat. A tropical storm warning was issued for Antigua and Barbuda, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, St. Lucia, Martinique and Anguilla.
The storm's hurricane-force winds extended about 35 kilometres from the eye, and tropical storm-force winds as far as 205 kilometres.
Forecasters said storm surge could raise water levels by 1.8 to 2.7m near Maria's centre. The storm was predicted to bring 25 to 38 centimetres of rain for some islands, with the possibility of higher amounts in isolated spots.
The current forecast track would carry it about 35 kilometres south of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands late Tuesday and early Wednesday, territorial Gov. Kenneth Mapp said.
"We are going to have a very, very long night," Mapp said as he urged people in the territory to finish any preparations.