Maria is now a hurricane and a hurricane watch has been issued for the British Virgin Islands.
A hurricane watch means that hurricane conditions are possible within the watch area.
A watch is typically issued 48 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical-storm-force winds, conditions that make outside preparations difficult or dangerous.
At 5:00 pm, the center of Hurricane Maria was located by an Air Force Reserve reconnaissance aircraft near latitude 13.8 degree North, longitude 57.5 degrees West or about 150 miles east of Barbados.
Maria is moving toward the west-northwest near 15 mph and this motion with a decrease in forward speed is expected through Tuesday. On the forecast track, the center of Maria will move across the Leeward Islands Monday night and then over the extreme northeastern Caribbean Sea on Tuesday.
Reconnaissance data indicate that maximum sustained winds have increased to near 75 mph with higher gusts. Additional strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours, and Maria could be near major hurricane intensity when it moves across the Leeward Islands Monday night.
Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 15 miles from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 105 miles.
The minimum central pressure measured by the aircraft is 982 millibars.
Based upon the latest observation and analysis, Tropical Storm Maria could pass close to the BVI Tuesday/Wednesday as a major hurricane.
Maria is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 6 to 12 inches with isolated maximum amounts of 20 inches across the British Virgin Islands through Wednesday night. These rainfall amounts could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides.
Gusty winds could blow debris from Hurricane Irma around, creating dangerous conditions. Residents are encouraged to secure loose items in and around their homes.
All residents of the BVI are urged to monitor the movement of Maria closely and take action to protect life and property.
Please continue to monitor local media stations, DDM’s website (bviddm.com) and Facebook at BVIDDM for regular updates.