Tropics: Lee a major hurricane, Maria strengthens slightly

The East Coast is bracing for a possible hit from Hurricane Maria, days after the storm caused widespread devastation in the Caribbean.

It is seen moving away from the coast of North Carolina on Wednesday, the Miami-based weather forecaster said.

Officials in North Carolina estimate more than 10,000 people have left the Outer Banks as Hurricane Maria moves closer.

A tropical storm warning was in effect for portions of the North Carolina coast from Cape Lookout to Duck, and Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds. Those on the Carolina and mid-Atlantic coasts are warned to monitor the storm’s progress.

While the past month has been devastating, the 2017 season doesn’t end until November 30 and warm ocean temperatures suggest there are still more storms to come, said Phil Klotzbach, lead author of the Colorado State University seasonal hurricane forecast.

Maria’s economic cost to Puerto Rico could increase if the islands sees an exodus of residents fearful that water and power could be out for months, said Chuck Watson, of Enki Research.

Sarah Midgett lost her vehicle during Hermine and her home was severely damaged by Matthew’s floods.

The power is still out on almost all the island after Hurricane Maria smashed poles, snarled power lines and flooded electricity-generating plants, knocking out a grid that was already considered antiquated compared to the USA mainland. Many roads are impassable and gas stations were destroyed, he said.

Raleigh can expect winds to reach 20 miles per hour, but Maria’s outer bands may not move close enough to cause any rain. Right now, it’s 300 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Maria was expected to keep gradually weakening and was forecast to become a tropical storm Tuesday night or Wednesday.

Swells generated by Hurricane Maria are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current condition.

At 8 a.m., Maria was about 155 miles (250 kilometers) east of Cape Hatteras, moving north at just 5 mph (8 kph.) Highest winds were 70 mph (112 kph).

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