MARIA IS NOW A DANGEROUS CATEGORY 5 HURRICANE

8 p.m. Update: Maria now a Category 5 hurricane

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The position and projected track of Hurricane Maria at 8 p.m. (National Hurricane Center)

Hurricane Maria has become a potentially catastrophic Category 5 hurricane as the eye and the intense inner core nears Dominica.

At 8 p.m. Maria was centred about 15 miles (25 km) east-southeast of Dominica and about 40 miles (70 km) north of Martinique. Maria is moving toward the west-northwest near 9 mph (15 km/h), and this general motion is expected to continue through Wednesday.

On the forecast track, the core of Maria will move near Dominica and the adjacent Leeward Islands during the next few hours, over the extreme northeastern Caribbean Sea the remainder of tonight and Tuesday, and approach Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands Tuesday night and Wednesday.

Maria is moving toward the west-northwest near 9 mph (15 km/h), and this general motion is expected to continue through Wednesday. On the forecast track, the core of Maria will move near Dominica and the adjacent Leeward Islands during the next few hours, over the extreme northeastern Caribbean Sea the remainder of tonight and Tuesday, and approach Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands Tuesday night and Wednesday.

On the forecast track, the core of Maria will move near Dominica and the adjacent Leeward Islands during the next few hours, over the extreme northeastern Caribbean Sea the remainder of tonight and Tuesday, and approach Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands Tuesday night and Wednesday.

On the forecast track, the core of Maria will move near Dominica and the adjacent Leeward Islands during the next few hours, over the extreme northeastern Caribbean Sea the remainder of tonight and Tuesday, and approach Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands Tuesday night and Wednesday.

Maximum sustained winds are near 160 mph (260 km/h) with higher gusts, making the system a category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

Some additional strengthening is possible tonight, but some fluctuations in intensity are likely during the next day or two. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 25 miles (35 km) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 125 miles (205 km).

The estimated minimum central pressure based on Air Force Hurricane Hunter data is 925 mb (27.32 inches).

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