Colorado natives brace for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico

Hurricane Maria path

Hurricane Maria began battering Puerto Rico Wednesday, tearing off roofs and sending doors flying off their hinges.

After slicing through the islands of Dominica and Guadeloupe, Maria, described as "potentially catastrophic" by the National Hurricane Center, was moving west-northwest at 10 miles per hour over the northeastern Caribbean Sea with maximum sustained winds of 165 miles per hour on Tuesday (Sept 19) evening. Officials said the ocean was washing over areas south of the Bonner Bridge to Cape Hatteras, adding overwash occurred at Pea Island, Rodanthe, Avon, and Hatteras Village on Hatteras Island on Monday.

The storm, which already killed 9 in the Caribbean, hit Yabucoa shortly after 6 a.m.as a Category 4 hurricane, packing 155 miles per hour winds.

"Extremely dangerous" Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico Wednesday morning and is expected to punish the US territory with life-threatening winds for 12 to 24 hours, forecasters say. "While Hurricane Maria may not be as strong as Hurricane Irma, our present reality is also very different".

Hurricane Maria weakened after reaching the Caribbean island of Dominica but it quickly gained strength again.

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"Maria struck the island of Puerto Rico this morning - the first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall there in 85 years.

We have become the Irma relief hub and our brothers and sisters across the pond can't afford for us to be crippled", she said, referring to those on St Croix.

Today, more than 3.3 million people call the USA territory home.

Dominica Consul General Barbara Dailey said officials hadn't been able to communicate with anyone on the island since 4 a.m. Tuesday.

A view of palm trees blowing in the wind in San Juan, Puerto Rico, 19 September 2017.

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"We will need help, my friend, we will need help of all kinds", he said.

Maria's awesome force came as the island was still recovering from Hurricane Irma, which cut through the Caribbean and killed dozens of people less than two weeks ago.

"Maria will stay far away from Florida", Shields said.

Early Tuesday morning, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said on Facebook that Dominica had "lost all what money can buy and replace".

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