Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico with a one-two punch of high winds and driving rain before beginning its deliberate march toward the Dominican Republic. Early Thursday, the National Hurricane Center said the storm had regained “major hurricane status,” upgrading it to Category 3.
The center said at 2 a.m. that Maria’s maximum sustained winds had risen to almost 115 miles per hour, and that the storm could get stronger still over the next day or so. It was expected to pass offshore of the Dominican Republic’s northeastern coast early Thursday, before moving near the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas on Thursday night and Friday.
Hurricane Maria has damaged Puerto Rico’s power infrastructure in ways that, in a worst-case scenario, could take months to repair, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló told CNN late Wednesday. “Our telecommunications system is partially down,” he said. “Our energy infrastructure is completely down.”
Rosselló said that the island’s energy infrastructure is “a little bit old, mishandled and weak,” and towers carrying high-voltage lines may have been toppled by the storm. The National Guard will assess the lines from the air once conditions are safer, he said.
The head of Puerto Rico’s emergency management agency said such damage would leave the entire island without power.
“When we can get outside, we will find our island destroyed,” Abner Gómez of the emergency management agency said at a news conference Wednesday. “The information we received is not encouraging. It’s a system that has destroyed everything it has had in its wake.”