Hurricane Maria develops ‘dreaded pinhole eye’

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

6 p.m.

Hurricane forecasters are predicting that already powerful Hurricane Maria will become a destructive Category 5 hurricane with winds reaching 155 mph (250 kph).

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Monday that the storm would reach the highest measurement on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale within 24 hours.

University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy says one key sign of Maria’s growing strength is what center forecasters call “the dreaded pinhole eye.” Maria’s eye has shrunk to 10 miles (15 kilometers) in diameter

A smaller, tighter eye makes the hurricane spin faster.

McNoldy says meteorologists saw a similar pinhole eye when Hurricane Wilma set a record for lowest central pressure – a key measure of storm power – in 2005.

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4:55 p.m.

Hurricane Maria has become an extremely dangerous Category 4 storm as it bears down on the Caribbean.

The eye and the intense inner core is expected to pass near Dominica during the next few hours.

Maria is moving at 9mph with maximum sustained winds at 130mph.

A Hurricane Warning has been issued for Puerto Rico, Culebra, and Vieques. The U.S. track is still uncertain.

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11:30 a.m.

A tropical storm warning has been issued for a stretch of New England as Hurricane Jose approaches the coast of the U.S. Northeast.

National Hurricane Center in Miami said the warning was in effect for an area stretching from Watch Hill, Rhode Island, to Hull, Massachusetts. The storm is expected to remain offshore, although coastal flooding is possible from Delaware to southern New England over the next few days.

The center says little change in strength is expected in the next 24 hours, although the storm will slowly weaken afterward. Maximum sustained winds Monday are near 75 mph (120 kph) with higher gusts.

Jose is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 3 to 5 inches over eastern Long Island, southeast Connecticut, southern Rhode Island, and southeast Massachusetts, including Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, through Wednesday.

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11:10 a.m.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami says that Hurricane Maria has strengthened to a Category 3 storm as it headed toward the Caribbean.

Maria on Monday was “rapidly” intensifying into a major hurricane. The eye is expected to move through the Leeward Islands later Monday. The storm’s center was about 60 miles (95 kilometers) east of Martinique, with maximum sustained winds of 120 mph (195 kph).

The storm is on a path that would take it near many of the islands wrecked by Hurricane Irma and on toward Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.  Hurricane warnings were posted for Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat and Martinique.

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10:30 a.m.

The ocean is washing over parts of North Carolina’s Outer Banks as Hurricane Jose passes well to the east.

The state Transportation Department said in a Facebook post Monday that the affected areas encompass Pea Island, Rodanthe, Avon and Hatteras village on Hatteras Island.

Jose was about 270 miles (440 kilometers) east-southeast of Cape Hatteras on Monday morning and moving north at 9 mph (15 kph). It had maximum sustained winds of 85 mph (140 kph).

DOT is urging drivers to drive slowly through the water. All roads are passable.

The National Weather Service warns of dangerous rip currents along the coast.

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9:10 a.m.

Five people were knocked off a coastal jetty in the U.S. Northeast by high surf caused by Hurricane Jose hundreds of miles (kilometers) away in the Atlantic.

Capt. Nelson Upright of the Narragansett Fire Department told WPRI-TV the injuries in Rhode Island ranged Sunday from minor to “pretty major.” He says rescuers had to fight through rough surf to load the injured onto stretchers and get them to shore. All five were taken to a hospital.

A witness who called 911 told the station the people were standing in two groups on different parts of the jetty as the storm-whipped waves crashed over the rocks. He says one person appeared to be unconscious and another had a significant leg injury.

Emergency officials along the coast are warning people to watch waves churned up by Jose from a safe distance.

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9 a.m.

Hurricane Jose is still far out in the Atlantic but warnings already are up in New Jersey for rough surf, powerful winds and even a chance for storm surge by midweek.

A tropical storm watch is in effect in New Jersey for all or parts of several coastal counties. Tropical storm conditions are possible Tuesday.

Jose, still far off in the Atlantic, is churning up the ocean and swimmers are advised to stay out of the surf.

Forecasters say wind gusts of up to 45 mph (72 kph) are possible, winds capable of downing trees and power lines.

The potential exists for a storm surge of 1 to 3 feet (1 meter) through early Wednesday afternoon. That could pose flooding along the coast and generate moderate beach erosion.

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