As of the National Hurricane Center’s 5 p.m. update, Hurricane Maria’s track still shows the storm’s cone of uncertainty coming into contact with parts of the U.S. eastern seaboard. The storm has also lost some strength since this morning, while the revitalized Tropical Storm Lee has added some.
The storm is currently 640 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. It is moving north-northwest at 9 mph, with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph, down somewhat from the 120 mph winds it was sporting this morning, but still a Category 3 storm. Gusts have been measured around 138 mph have been reported.
While the cone of uncertainty presently interacts with the northern part of the North Carolina coast as well as the Virginia coast, the storm poses no direct threat to South Carolina, though it is already producing coastal effects that are being felt throughout the area, including a high rip current risk, large waves, choppy surf and higher tides.
“You could see increased risk of rip currents through early next week,” said Blair Holloway, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Charleston. “The risk of shallow coastal flooding will go into early next week as well.”
Coastal flooding will be magnified due to the beach erosion already caused by the impact of Tropical Storm Irma, Holloway said.
Maria has already claimed at least 30 lives according to The Weather Channel, and that number could easily climb. The devastating storm has left many parts of the Caribbean reeling, with Puerto Rico still entirely in blackout and 65 to 70 percent of structures on the island of Dominica leveled according to a report from Reuters.
Since battering the Turks and Caicos Islands yesterday, Maria has moved away from land, and there are no coastal warnings or watches in effect as of the hurricane center’s 5 p.m. update, though residents of the Bahamas are advised to keep an eye on the storm.
Maria is expected to maintain its status as a hurricane through at least Thursday, when it is predicted that the storm will carry sustained winds of 74 mph.
Within the next 36 hours its forward momentum is expected to slow to around 6 mph. It is expected to move at that speed through the remainder of the forecast period according to the hurricane center.
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Lee has returned to the waters of the Atlantic.
It is currently about 875 miles east of Bermuda, moving north-northwest at a glacial pace of 3 mph. It has sustained winds of 45 mph with gusts up to 58 mph.
It is expected to turn in circles in the middle of the Atlantic through the next few days. It should not be a threat to land according to the hurricane center, and there are no coastal warnings or watches associated with it at this time.