The eye of the storm moved off Puerto Rico’s coast Wednesday afternoon, but Maria was still causing catastrophic flooding on the island early Thursday, the National Weather Service said. By 1 a.m., flash flood warnings covered the entire island. “If possible, move to higher ground NOW!” the agency’s office in San Juan said.
The storm was expected to approach the Turks and Caicos Islands and southeastern Bahamas by Thursday night. It was upgraded early Thursday to a Category 3 storm, with sustained winds of up to 115 miles per hour, after losing some strength as it crossed Puerto Rico.
Electricity was out across all of Puerto Rico, and Gov. Ricardo Rosselló announced a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew effective until Saturday. “The damage is very extensive,” he said Wednesday night in an interview on CNN. “It is nothing short of a major disaster.”
Here’s the latest:
• Forecasters say Puerto Rico will see about two feet of rain by Friday. Storm surges are expected to raise water levels by as much as six feet in the Dominican Republic.
• Governor Rosselló told CNN late Wednesday that officials knew of only one fatality in Puerto Rico, but noted that they still could not communicate with the southeastern part of the island, which was hit earliest and hardest by the storm. “We still don’t have a lot of information,” he said.
• Charles Jong, a spokesman for the government of Dominica, said Thursday that 14 people had died in that island nation. “The conditions on the ground in Dominica are very bad,” he said. Residents were without power and running water, and floodwaters had washed away many people’s stockpiles of food, he said.
• Two people were also killed on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, officials said.
Restoring power is a priority in Puerto Rico.
Jenniffer González-Colón, Puerto Rico’s nonvoting member of the House of Representatives, told CNN on Thursday that the island appeared to have been “devastated,” with power lines lying on the ground and rivers flowing over bridges.
Ms. González-Colón, who spent much of the hurricane in a closet, said restoring power was crucial, but added that the governor had estimated that it could take a month or more to get electricity back for the whole island. She suggested that without electricity, many of the pumps that supplied residents with running water would not be functioning.
A Category 4 storm had not made landfall on Puerto Rico since 1932. Carlos Anselmi, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service there, said there had been “record-breaking” amounts of rain, with as much as 35 inches expected in some places.
Smaller towns and more rural areas, many full of wooden houses with zinc roofs, were difficult to reach after the storm, but widespread damage was reported. Mayor Félix Delgado of Cataño, on the northern coast, told a San Juan radio station that the storm had destroyed 80 percent of the homes in the Juana Matos neighborhood, which had been evacuated.
Ricardo Ramos, the director of the government-owned Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, told CNN Thursday that the island’s power infrastructure had been basically “destroyed.”
Mr. Ramos said residents would need to adjust to a new way of life, changing how they cooked and how they cooled off. He said that adjustments would be particularly difficult for a younger generation that had grown up playing with electronic devices and taking power for granted.
“It’s a good time for dads to buy a ball and a glove and change the way you entertain your children,” he said.
A seaside area is smashed by the storm.
Residents and business owners in the Condado area of San Juan began to trickle into the streets on Thursday morning to assess the havoc wrought by Maria. Joggers ran past what resembled a beachside battlefield. Bikers pedaled slowly, taking in the overwhelming damage.
Condado, the tourist district of the island which has seen a reawakening of sorts with the opening of new hotels and restaurant chains over the last couple of years, was ravaged. Windows were blown out in the apartment buildings and hotels that line the promenade. A restaurant lost its roof. Parque del Indio, a popular seaside park for skaters and joggers, was blanketed with sand and water.
“It’s total destruction,” said Angie Mok, a property manager. “This will be a renaissance.”
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Ms. Mok’s 4th-floor seaside apartment had been destroyed. Her apartment had no shutters, and the wind rattled her belongings, while ankle-high water soaked the floors.
“If after Irma it took two days to regain power and now I’m seeing fallen electricity poles, this time it will take a while to rebuild,” she said.
“It will take like a year. There is work to be done.”
‘I’ve never seen winds like this,’ Trump says.
President Trump said on Wednesday that he had “never seen” winds like the ones generated by Hurricane Maria as it made landfall in Puerto Rico.
“We have a big one going right now — I’ve never seen winds like this — in Puerto Rico,” he said as he entered a meeting in New York with King Abdullah II of Jordan. “You take a look at what’s happening there, and it’s just one after another.”
Late Wednesday, the White House declared the United States Virgin Islands a disaster area, to make federal funding available for residents of St. Croix.
The king extended his “condolences” to residents in the path of the three storms that have hit the United States over the last several weeks, adding, “For us sitting on the outside, looking at how the Americans came together at a difficult time is really an example to everybody else.”
On CNN, Brock Long, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said that the agency was well positioned to help on Puerto Rico and on the United States Virgin Islands. Mr. Long confirmed that both areas had fragile power systems, and he said it could be a long time until power returned.
St. Croix, a center of earlier relief efforts, now needs help.
Emily Weston, a businesswoman who lives on the outskirts of Frederiksted on St. Croix, said that she and her boyfriend weathered Hurricane Maria at home on Tuesday, moving from room to room before eventually seeking shelter under a piece of plywood.
“You hear all this stuff banging into the side of the house, and you hear the roof vibrating and moving through the night, but it held,” she said. “It was terrifying. I was scared.”
Her house fared better than many others that lost windows and roofs as the center of the storm passed just south of the island. Ms. Weston added that St. Croix — which pitched in to help St. Thomas and St. John after they were devastated by Hurricane Irma earlier this month — would need outside aid.
“A lot of people had stocked up for Irma, and after Irma spared St. Croix, everyone gave their supplies to St. Thomas,” she said. “So there is a concern on the island that we won’t have enough now in the short term.”
Hurricane Maria was kinder to St. Thomas and St. John, both of which have been struggling to recover from Irma. Still, St. Thomas was hit with heavy rain and flooding.
“We were really pretty crippled from Irma,” said Adrien Austin, who owns a car rental company there. “We had a lot of rain — significantly more than Irma.”
“Infrastructure-wise, it definitely set us back a couple weeks,” he added. “We’re right back to disaster-relief impotency.”
He added that the many residents whose roofs had been ripped off by Irma were particularly hard hit. Though he expects the island to be without electricity for months to come, he believes the tourism industry will recover soon.
“We will rebuild quickly,” he said.
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