The Latest: Florida governor says need to watch hurricane

September 19, 2017 - 12:02 pm

MIAMI (AP) — The Latest on tropical weather (all times local):

11:55 a.m.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott says his state's citizens should carefully monitor Hurricane Maria.

The Category 5 storm is forecast to veer out into the Atlantic and miss the state. But Scott reminded people on Tuesday that Hurricane Irma's Irma's path shifted as it approached the U.S. and it wound up causing devastation.

Scott encouraged people to restock their hurricane kits, buy water and have an evacuation plan.

He said that about 2 percent of the state's electric customers are still without power due to Irma.

His comments came as he thanked first responders during an event in Tampa.

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11:15 a.m.

U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. Kenneth Mapp says that the track of Hurricane Maria has shifted and the eye is now expected to pass over the southwestern tip of St. Croix.

That means parts of the island are expected to experience the full force of the storm winds that have now reached 160 mph (260 kph). Conditions are expected to deteriorate tonight with the approach of the "extremely, extremely dangerous hurricane."

The Virgin Islands are already reeling from Hurricane Irma, which passed over the islands of St. Thomas and St. John.

Mapp warned Tuesday that Maria is expected to bring up to 12 inches of rain to St. John.

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11 a.m.

Forecasters say potentially catastrophic Hurricane Maria is continuing on its course toward the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said at 11 a.m. that the extremely dangerous Category 5 storm is forecast to hit the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Wednesday.

The top sustained winds of the storm are near 160 mph (260 kph) and the Miami-based center says some fluctuations in intensity are likely over the coming days.

The eye of Maria was about 85 miles (135 kilometers) west of Guadeloupe or about 170 miles (275 kilometers) southeast of St. Croix. It was moving to the west-northwest at 10 mph (16 kph).

Meanwhile, Jose remained a Category 1 hurricane in the Atlantic as it whipped up dangerous surf and rip currents along the U.S. East Coast. It was about 335 miles (539 kilometers) south-southwest of Nantucket, Massachusetts, and had top sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph).

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11 a.m.

Family and friends of people studying at Ross University School of Medicine in Dominica are anxiously trying to find news of their loved ones following the passage of Hurricane Maria.

The school says there is widespread loss of communication on the island.

Many messages posted on Facebook by friends and family say they have been unable to talk to students since late Monday evening as the storm approached.

One woman says her husband spoke to their daughter at 6 p.m. as the storm was in full force. She wrote that her daughter was "very scared but safe with friends." But she has not heard from her since.

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10:30 a.m.

Coastal flooding from Hurricane Jose has prompted North Carolina to close parts of the main highway on the Outer Banks.

The state transportation department says that parts of N.C. Highway 12 were closed by flooding Tuesday morning.

The agency says the road north of the Pea Island Visitors Center was temporarily closed until the tide subsides.

The ocean was washing over areas south of the Bonner Bridge to Cape Hatteras.

The department also said Monday that ocean overwash was occurring at Pea Island, Rodanthe, Avon and Hatteras village on Hatteras Island.

A coastal flood warning was issued for Dare County on the Outer Banks through Tuesday night. Rip current warnings were posted from north of Wilmington to the Virginia state line.

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9:10 a.m.

About 25,000 households lost electricity and two small towns are without potable water after Hurricane Maria roared past the French island of Martinique, damage considered minimal.

The head of French civil security, Jacques Witkowski, told reporters in Paris on Tuesday that it was too soon to say whether the French department of Guadaloupe was so lucky. Communications there have been difficult. He says two people suffered minor injuries.

The prefect, or highest French official, of Guadaloupe, Eric Maire, said in a video via Twitter that some roads and homes were flooded and heavy rain is expected to continue. He told island residents to "remain inside" amid the flood threat and warnings by forecasters of possible landslides.

France is upping its manpower in the region, with two flights taking off on Tuesday, the first carrying 160 firefighters and military personnel to Martinique.

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8:35 a.m.

New York state officials have deployed members of the National Guard and specialized emergency response units to Long Island to prepare for potentially severe weather caused by Hurricane Jose.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says 100 members of the National Guard, 13 members of an urban search and rescue team, and 20 high-axle vehicles will set up a command post at a welcome center on the Long Island Expressway in Dix Hills in Suffolk County. That coastal county is under a tropical storm watch.

The Democratic governor says the facility will be open to members of the public seeking shelter during severe weather.

Cuomo organized a storm briefing at the welcome center Tuesday morning. Hurricane Jose, though still far out in the Atlantic, is producing rough surf along the East Coast.

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8 a.m.

Forecasters say potentially catastrophic Hurricane Maria is heading toward the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said at 8 a.m. that the extremely dangerous Category 5 storm is on a forecast track approaching the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico between Tuesday night and Wednesday.

The top sustained winds of the storm are near 160 mph (260 kph) and the Miami-based center says some fluctuations in intensity are likely over the coming days. At 8 a.m., the eye of Maria was about 85 miles (135 kilometers) west of Guadeloupe or about 170 miles (275 kilometers) southeast of St. Croix. The major hurricane is moving to the west-northwest at 9 mph (15 kph).

Meanwhile, Jose remained a Category 1 hurricane in the Atlantic as it churned up dangerous surf and rip currents along the U.S. East Coast. It was about 350 miles (560 kilometers south-southwest of Nantucket, Massachusetts, and had top sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph).

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7 a.m.

The surf remains rough along the New Jersey shore and there's a chance for some coastal flooding because of Jose. But the strong winds associated with the hurricane are well off the coast.

A high surf advisory remains in effect until 6 p.m. Tuesday and a coastal flood warning is posted until 1 a.m. Wednesday.

Wave heights off the coast could build to 15 feet (4.5 meters), while breaking waves along the coast are expected to reach 8 to 10 feet (2 to 3 meters). A high risk for rip currents continues.

Minor flooding is expected during the morning high tide and moderate flooding is anticipated during the evening. Widespread roadway flooding is expected and minor property damage is possible.

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6:15 a.m.

Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skeritt says there are initial reports of "widespread devastation" in the small island from Hurricane Marie.

The prime minister says he will be going around the country to see what has happened and what is needed as soon as the all-clear sign is given. But that his "greatest fear" is that the people of Dominica will wake to news of "serious physical injury and possible deaths."

He made the statement in a post on his Facebook page while the storm was still raging.

At one point, he lost the roof to his own official residence. He also said that the winds have swept away the roofs of many other people. He says his initial focus will be to rescue trapped people and secure medical aid for the injured.

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5:10 a.m.

Hurricane Maria has regained Category 5 strength, upping its top wind speeds after it had briefly dropped to a Category 4 storm overnight near the island of Dominica.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami says a hurricane hunter plane checking on Maria after it pounded that small Caribbean island says the storm strengthened anew early Tuesday and again has top sustained winds of 160 mph (260 kph). The storm was located early Tuesday about 65 miles (100 kilometers) west-southwest of another Caribbean island, Guadeloupe. It's moving to the west-northwest at 9 mph (15 kph).

Forecasters say a Category 5 hurricane is a major and extremely dangerous storm capable of catastrophic winds. They add that fluctuations in intensity were expected and that further strengthening is possible as the storm moves over warm Caribbean waters in coming hours and days.

Elsewhere, in the Atlantic, Hurricane Jose is producing dangerous surf and rip currents along the East Coast of the United States. Forecasters say that storm is centered about 240 miles (390 kilometers) east-northeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina — or about 365 miles (590 kilometers) south of Nantucket, Massachusetts. It's moving to the north at 9 mph (15 kph) with top sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph).

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2:45 a.m.

Hurricane Maria, after pounding Dominica with high winds, has weakened slightly to a still extremely dangerous Category 4 major storm.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said early Tuesday that top sustained winds had fallen slightly to 155 mph (250 kph). It says high winds are now beginning to diminish over Dominica and that the eye of Maria is now about 45 miles (70 kilometers) west-northwest of that small Caribbean island. The storm is moving west-northwest at 9 mph (15 kph) on a course that threatens other areas of the Caribbean including Puerto Rico.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Jose continues to move north over the Atlantic, churning up dangerous surf and rip currents along the East Coast of the United States. That storm was located at 2 a.m. about 395 miles (635 kilometers) south of Nantucket, Massachusetts.

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12:10 a.m.

Hurricane Maria swept over the small island of Dominica with catastrophic winds overnight, starting a charge into the eastern Caribbean that threatens islands already devastated by Hurricane Irma and holds the possibility of a direct hit on Puerto Rico.

Fierce winds and driving rain lashed mountainous Dominica for hours, causing flooding and tearing roofs from homes. A police official on the island, Inspector Pellam Jno Baptiste, said late Monday that there were no immediate reports of casualties but it was still too dangerous for officers to do a full assessment as the storm raged outside.

"Where we are, we can't move," he said in a brief phone interview while hunkered down against the region's second Category 5 hurricane this month.

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