Hurricane Maria appeared seemingly out of nowhere, on the heels of two major hurricanes that made landfall and one near-miss.
A storm-weary part of the world breathed a sigh of relief after Harvey blasted through Texas and Louisiana and Irma churned its way through the Caribbean up into Florida. Having more than a couple of intense storms in one hurricane season is rare, so many people began to focus on the relief efforts and cleanup that were needed, thinking the worst was likely over.
The relief was short-lived, however, as Maria intensified rapidly on Monday and set her sights on the exact path that Hurricane Irma carved out.
Puerto Rico is projected to take a direct hit from the storm, unlike Irma’s eyewall, which skimmed the seas to the north of the island. The U.S. Virgin Islands are also in Maria’s path. The storm has already caused widespread destruction in the Caribbean island nation of Dominica, where it made landfall on Monday.
Residents of the islands in Maria’s path are preparing for the storm, which the National Weather Service says could leave locations uninhabitable for an extended period of time.
Some projections predict that Maria will curve away from the U.S. mainland and head out to sea once it has passed over the Caribbean islands in its path, but the Washington Post reports that it is too soon to say for sure where the storm will head next.
Atmospheric conditions in 2017 were hurricane-friendly and surface sea temperatures were warmer than usual, contributing to the four storms that have been Category 4 or stronger so far this year.