The Caribbean is so far seeing no relief from this year's historically turbulent and destructive Atlantic hurricane season, as Puerto Rico was being battered by Hurricane Maria on Wednesday—its second major storm in two weeks. The hurricane made landfall with heavy rain and 155 mile-per-hour winds early in the morning, following the $1 billion of damage left by Hurricane Irma earlier this month.
Meteorologists and weather experts expressed grave concerns about the size and strength of the hurricane as it approached Puerto Rico, after causing "mind-boggling" damage in Dominica.
Footage showed strong wind gusts whipping through the streets of San Juan on Wednesday morning.
September 20, 2017
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Maria is the third major Atlantic hurricane to make landfall this season. Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston last month with a record-breaking 51 inches of rainfall and flooding across 70 percent of the surrounding county, leaving at least 82 people dead and causing billions of dollars of damage to structures.
Hurricane Irma followed, leaving the Caribbean island of Barbuda nearly "uninhabitable," devastating the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, causing major flooding in parts of Florida and the southeast and leaving one million people without power in Puerto Rico—potentially for months to come.
Maria is expected to be much more destructive to Puerto Rico, which went bankrupt in May after years of financial crises and little support from the United States, which has sovereign control over the territory. The island's aging infrastructure has fallen into disrepair over the years, leaving it especially vulnerable to hurricane damage.
The current Atlantic hurricane season has been unusually active in terms of the size, frequency, and intensity of the storms that have formed. According to a New York Times report, "The last time the northern Leeward Islands experienced two major hurricanes in the same season was 1899, and now it is looking at three in the same month."
Climate scientists say climate change has contributed to the relentless damage caused by recent hurricanes. Waters that have warmed by as much as three degrees Fahrenheit over the past century have caused larger and stronger hurricanes, while rising sea levels have led to more destructive storm surges and higher levels of flooding.