Hurricane Maria: Another major hurricane expected to wreak havoc along Irma's path

Hurricane Irma devastation in numbersIBTimes US

Those dealing with the destruction of Hurricane Irma could be about to face another devastating bout of bad weather as tropical storm Maria is predicted to strengthen into a hurricane and follow the same path.

Three storms are currently raging in the Atlantic Ocean and one of them, Maria, which formed on Saturday (16 September), is gathering wind speed with experts expecting it will develop into a major hurricane by Wednesday (20 September).

The US National Hurricane Centre claimed Maria, which currently has winds near 65mph, is likely to hit the Leeward Islands by Tuesday then head toward Puerto Rico and then towards the Dominican Republic. The centre has put hurricane watches into effect on many of the same islands that have been ravaged by Hurricane Irma.

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These include St Martin, Barbuda, Antigua and St Barts – all of which are currently in the rebuilding process from Irma's force, one of the strongest hurricanes on record that claimed 38 lives in the Caribbean.

"Maria is expected to strengthen and affect portions of the Leeward Islands as a hurricane early next week, bringing dangerous wind, storm surge and rainfall hazards," the NHC said. "Maria could also affect the British and US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico by mid-week as a dangerous major hurricane, and hurricane watches could be issued for these islands as early as tonight."

Will Hurricane Maria hit Florida?

Weather experts have said it is far too early to determine whether Maria will move onto South Florida and wreak the same havoc and destruction as Hurricane Irma, which caused an exodus of residents from Miami and the Florida Keys in an attempt to escape the deadly storm.

As Hurricane Irma tore through Florida, Georgia and South Carolina it has destroyed homes, buildings, caused flooding and cut out power for days for nearly 10 million people. In total the death toll from the hurricane hitting land in the US is at 26 and counting.

Currently Maria is approximately 400 miles southeast of the Lesser Antilles and is heading towards the Caribbean at a rate of 15mph. It is likely that Maria's wind speed could reach up to 100mph by the time it reaches the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Meanwhile Hurricane Jose, which is also spinning in the Western Atlantic, is moving northwards along the east coast of the US. Despite being some way off shore, people are being advised to be aware of possible deviation in its route.

"While Jose is currently forecast to remain offshore of the US coast from Virginia northward to New England, the large cyclone could cause some direct impacts to these areas and any deviation to the left of the NHC forecast track would increase the likelihood and magnitude of those impacts," the hurricane centre told CNN.

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The third storm lurking out in the Atlantic is Tropical Storm Lee, which formed on Saturday (16 September), however it is unlikely to threaten any land as it spins almost 800 miles southwest of Cape Verde and will likely weaken and fade away.

Why are there so many storms around at the moment?

Many will ask why there are so many storms and hurricanes developing at the moment, and while it is hurricane season, favourable conditions in the Atlantic are helping to fuel devastating storms. The Met Office told IBTimes UK:

"Firstly, sea surface temperatures under Irma are 1 to 1.5°C higher than the average for this time of year providing abundant moisture and warmth. Secondly, wind shear – the change in wind with height - is low meaning air can flow in up and out of the hurricane very efficiently, thus promoting intensification. Thirdly, there are no drying influences at present such as pockets of Saharan dust which sometimes drift out over the Atlantic."

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