The strongest storm to hit Puerto Rico in decades made landfall at 6:15 Wednesday morning, with sustained winds of 150 mph.
“This is total devastation,” said Carlos Mercader, a spokesman for Puerto Rico’s governor. “Puerto Rico, in terms of the infrastructure, will not be the same. … This is something of historic proportions.”
Almost 1 million people were without power shortly after the storm hit as a Category 4 hurricane.
The Washington Post reported that in the capital of San Juan, buildings shook and glass windows shattered from the force of the storm. Residents of some high-rise apartments sought refuge in bathrooms and first-floor lobbies, but even those who sought out safe ground found themselves vulnerable.
The island’s mountainous terrain was likely to act like a barrier and squeeze a lot of moisture out of Maria, producing as much as 2 feet of rain in some places, said CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam. That could lead to flash flooding, which Rosselló stressed often is the top cause of death following a storm like this.
“God is with us,” Gov. Ricardo Rossello tweeted shortly after Maria made landfall. “We are stronger than any hurricane. Together we will rise.”
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The last Category 4 storm to make landfall on Puerto Rico was in 1932, according to the AP.
Earlier, several deaths were reported throughout the Caribbean. An adviser to Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit says the storm killed at least seven people on the island of Dominica, according to the AP. On the French island of Guadeloupe, officials said at least two deaths were blamed on Maria, and at least two people were missing after a ship went down near the tiny French island of Desirade, the Post reported.
Already responding to several hurricanes this season, aid agencies are seeing what they can do in response to this latest storm. Working with Caritas Antilles, Catholic Relief Services staff are on the ground in Tortola, a British Virgin Island.