Tropical Storm Maria a growing threat to Irma-battered Caribbean


MEXICO CITY — The hurricane-battered islands of the Caribbean are facing yet another storm threat: Forecasters said Sunday that Tropical Storm Maria is likely to hit the Leeward Islands as a strengthening hurricane on Tuesday. 

Hurricane watches were in effect for many of the very islands still trying to cope with the devastation left by Hurricane Irma, including St. Martin, St. Barts and Antigua and Barbuda.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Maria was likely to grow into a hurricane on Sunday and swell into major hurricane status by midweek as it heads for Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The Hurricane Center said the storm could affect Puerto Rico and the British and U.S. Virgin Islands by mid-week as a dangerous major hurricane. 

The storm had maximum sustained winds of 65 mph Sunday morning. It was centered about 410 miles east-southwest of the Lesser Antilles and was heading west-northwest at 15 mph.

Meanwhile, long-lived Hurricane Jose was moving northward off the U.S. Atlantic Seaboard. The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Jose is growing stronger off the East Coast of the U.S., with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph.

Forecasters say the storm is expected to cause dangerous surf and rip currents. Swells from the storm are affecting the Bahamas, Bermuda and much of the East Coast, according to the National Hurricane Center.

While Jose is projected to weaken and veer away from any direct impact on the coast, the Hurricane Center said a minor shift could bring tropical-storm-force winds to North Carolina’s Outer Banks or areas to the north.

In the Pacific, Tropical Storm Norma’s threat to Mexico’s Los Cabos area appeared to be easing. Forecasters said the storm was weakening and its center was likely to remain offshore.

The storm had winds of about 45 mph and it was centered about 155 miles south-southwest of Cabo San Lucas. That area was hit two weeks ago by Tropical Storm Lidia, which flooded streets and homes and killed at least four people.

The Baja California Sur state government readied storm shelters and canceled classes for Monday as well as calling off a Mexican Independence Day military parade in the state capital, La Paz.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Lee formed in the Atlantic and Tropical Storm Otis in the Pacific on Saturday. Neither threatened land.

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