Maria Intensifies to Rare Category 5 Hurricane in Caribbean

The fourth major Atlantic hurricane of the year, Maria, strengthened into a rare Category 5 storm, as it churned through the eastern Caribbean, bearing down on the tiny island nation of Dominica while on a likely collision course with the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Maria was upgraded to the pinnacle of the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale as its maximum sustained winds reached 160 miles per hour (215 km per hour), with higher gusts, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported.

The center of the storm, described by the NHC as “potentially catastrophic,” was located about 15 miles (72 km) east-southeast of Dominica as of 7:45 pm EDT (2345 GMT), on a track that would put it over Puerto Rico by Wednesday, according to the agency’s latest bulletins.

Dominica, a heavily forested former British colony home to 72,000 people, lies in the eastern Caribbean about halfway between the French islands of



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