Hurricane Maria Is Officially A Category 4 Storm As It Bears Down on Puerto Rico

September 18, 2017, 11:24 PM UTC

Hurricane Maria has strengthened to a Category 4 storm as it approaches the island of Dominica and continues on a path similar to Hurricane Irma, according to an update Monday evening from the National Hurricane Center.

The storm in the Atlantic has rapidly gained strength and now has maximum sustained winds of 130 miles per hour, pushing it into the Category 4 designation, the NHC said. The eye of the storm is approaching Dominica, an island that lies island lies northwest of Martinique in the Caribbean Sea.

One regional branch of the NHC called it “extremely dangerous.”

Hurricane Maria will affect portions of the Leeward Islands and the British and U.S. Virgin Islands over the next couple of days, according to the NHC. The storm is also expected to affect Puerto Rico. The potential for life-threatening storm surge has increased for the Leeward Islands, British Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico, according to U.S. agency.

The path of Hurricane Maria is closely following the same route Hurricane Irma took when it devastated the British Virgin Islands, brushed Puerto Rico and then moved over Key West and Florida. Cleanup efforts are just beginning in these areas.