A quickly strengthening Hurricane Maria, now a Category 5 storm, is approaching Caribbean islands still recovering from Hurricane Irma, while Hurricane Jose passes just off of Maryland’s Atlantic coast, bringing dangerous surf.
Late Monday morning, only a day after reaching hurricane force, Maria became the fourth major storm to form in the Atlantic basin in 2017. By 8 p.m., it became the second storm of the season to warrant the highest rating on the Saffir-Simpson scale, with sustained 160 mph winds.
Hurricane warnings were in effect across the Leeward Islands, including in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where relief work to recover from Irma is just beginning. The National Hurricane Center warned Maria “is expected to be a dangerous major hurricane as it moves through the Leeward Islands and the northeastern Caribbean Sea.”
Maria could hit Puerto Rico on Wednesday as a major hurricane, said Ernesto Morales with the U.S. National Weather Service in San Juan.
“This storm promises to be catastrophic for our island,” he said. “All of Puerto Rico will experience hurricane force winds.”
Hurricane Jose will meanwhile pass about 200 miles from the mid-Atlantic coast Monday, bringing some rain to Maryland. The storm had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph and was centered about 230 miles east-southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C., at 8 p.m.
A tropical storm watch is in effect from Fenwick Island, Del., northward to Plymouth, Mass.
Jose has already stirred dangerous waves. Five people were knocked off a coastal jetty in Rhode Island by high surf caused by the storm. Officials said rescuers had to fight through rough surf to load the injured onto stretchers and get them to shore. All five were taken to a hospital with minor and major injuries.
Jose is forecast to bring Ocean City about a quarter-inch to a half-inch of rain and wind gusts of up to 45 miles per hour at the beginning of the week, according to the National Weather Service. The likelihood of rain is 40 percent Monday, rising to 60 percent overnight and 70 percent Tuesday.
“It’s passing offshore by quite a bit,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Wayne Albright. “It’s not even close. But there’s be high surf and rip currents. That’ll be more substantial than any rainfall.”
Baltimore is expected to see mostly cloudy weather Monday, with temperatures in the mid to upper 70s. The rest of the week’s forecast calls for partly cloudy to sunny weather, with highs in the low-to-mid-80s.
Long-term forecasting models suggest Maria could eventually be a threat to the East Coast. Taking aim at the Caribbean this week, it is expected to reach the Bahamas by Saturday.
From there, some models suggest the storm could strike the Carolinas, while others keep it out to sea, like Jose.
Beyond Hurricane Maria, Tropical Depression Lee is developing in the middle of the Atlantic. National Hurricane Center forecasters don’t expect it to gain tropical storm strength within the next few days.
Baltimore Sun reporters Sean Welsh and Colin Campbell and the Associated Press contributed to this article.