Widespread damage and power outages have been reported in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic as Hurricane Maria lashes the northern Caribbean islands.
Maria became the second Category 5 hurricane of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season but was downgraded to a Category 4 hurricane shortly before making landfall in Puerto Rico around 6:15 a.m. AST Wednesday.
Maria is the first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall in Puerto Rico since the San Ciprian hurricane in 1932.
Conditions will improve gradually across Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic into Friday as Maria makes its way to the northwest toward the Turks and Caicos and Bahamas.
Dominica took a direct hit from Maria on Monday night shortly after it strengthened into a Category 5 hurricane. This is the first recorded Category 5 hurricane to make landfall in Dominica. Tropical Storm Erika devastated the island just two years ago, killing at least 31 people.
How close will Hurricane Maria track to the US East Coast?
Maria to threaten lives, property in the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos
AccuWeather Hurricane Center
For previous reports on Maria, click here.
According to its 8 a.m. AST Friday update, the National Hurricane Center said hurricane conditions are occurring on the Turks and Caicos. Maria is currently about 30 miles north-northeast of Grand Turk Islands.
The Category 3 storm is packing winds up to 125 mph, and hurricane-force winds are extending up to 70 mph from its center.
According to the National Hurricane Center's 5 a.m. update for Friday, Maria's eye is approaching the Turks and Caicos as torrential rain and dangerous waves begin to wane along the northern coast of Hispaniola. The storm is now about 35 miles from Grand Turk Island with sustained winds of 125 mph.
More images showing the state of #Dominica following Hurricane Maria https://t.co/onFPE52a0X pic.twitter.com/AmUr0XY1Bg
— WIC News (@WIC_News) September 22, 2017
Following Maria's devastating destruction in Puerto Rico, most of the airports were ordered to close until at least Friday. The Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, the island's largest airport, is the only one confirmed to open on Friday.
There are also preliminary reports of one person dying in the Dominican Republic in a landslide.
Hurricane Maria continues to barrel through the northern Caribbean. As of 1:45 a.m. AST Friday, the eyewall is approaching the Turks and Caicos, heading northwest at a speed of 7 mph. Torrential rain and high waves are threatening the northern coast of Hispaniola as the storm moves away from the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Maria is currently 45 miles southeast of Grand Turk Island. Sustained winds are measured at 125 mph as the storm remains a Category 3 hurricane.
Maria aftermath. Road collapsed on Northside. #usvi #stthomas #maria #hurricane
San Juan struggles to initiate recovery efforts as communication, power & water are still scarce across the island. #HurricaneMaria @CNN pic.twitter.com/ZPmPx5w41V
— Jaide Garcia (@Jaide_Garcia) September 22, 2017