Category 5 Hurricane Maria slams into Dominica

The tiny sovereign island country Dominica got a direct hit by the Category 5 Hurricane Maria. At the time of landfall the hurricane packed 160 mph (260 km/h) sustained wind and displayed a very tight, pinhole eye, indicative of a very powerful system.

In the hours leading up to landfall, Maria organized and strengthened extremely rapidly, going from a Category 1 to a Category 5 hurricane in only 15 hours. By the time it hit, the hurricane packed 160 mph (260 km/h) sustained wind and displayed a very tight, pinhole eye. All signs of a powerful and very dangerous system.

Dominica is part of the Windward Islands in the Lesser Antilles archipelago. It is tiny, with a total area of 750 square kilometers, with just over 72 000 inhabitants. The hurricane made landfall at 20:30 Eastern Caribbean time (00:30 UTC today).

Radar and satellite imagery of Category 5 hurricane Maria at the time of landfall over Dominica. Images: Meteo France.

Few reports have arrived from Dominica so far, but messages on social media hint at widespread devastation. Also, in a historic analog, Category 4 hurricane David caused widespread destruction. Hurricane Maria is the first Category 5 hurricane to hit Dominica in the recorded history.

Devastation on Dominica in 1979 after the Category 4 hurricane David made landfall. Image: Trindidad and Tobago Weather Center.

During landfall Maria slightly weakened, dropping just below the Category 5 threshold – at 155 mph (250 km/h) it was a powerful upper end Category 4 hurricane. It retained the very tight eye, and resumed strengthening after coming over the water again. By 9:10 UTC the National Hurricane Center announced that hurricane Maria again strengthened to a Category 5 hurricane with sustaned winds of 160 mph (260 km/h). The eye was a pinhole about 7 miles (~12 km) wide.

The hurricane will likely be going into ERC (Eyewall Replacement Cycle) rather soon as the tight pinhole eye collapses and a new, larger one forms around it. At the time peak wind speeds temporarily may drop somewhat, but the area of intense winds increases with the enlarged eyewall. Current forecast has the hurricane tracking towards Puerto Rico, expected to make landfall there early tomorrow as a major Category 4 or 5 hurricane.

Keep updated with the latest data on Hurricane Maria!