Maria threatening storm-battered Caribbean

A satellite image provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows Hurricane Irma nearing the eastern Caribbean.  (NOAA via AP)
A satellite image provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows Hurricane Irma nearing the eastern Caribbean. (NOAA via AP)

Mexico City - The hurricane-battered islands of the Caribbean are facing yet another storm threat: Forecasters said on Sunday that Tropical Storm Maria is likely to hit the Leeward Islands as a strengthening hurricane on Tuesday.

Hurricane watches were in effect for many of the very islands still trying to cope with the devastation left by Hurricane Irma, including St. Martin, St. Barts and Antigua and Barbuda.

The US National Hurricane Center said Maria was likely to grow into a hurricane on Sunday and swell into major hurricane status by midweek as it heads for Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

The storm had maximum sustained winds of 100 km/h on Sunday morning. It was centred about 655 km east-southwest of the Lesser Antilles and was heading west-northwest at 24 km/h.

Meanwhile, long-lived Hurricane Jose was moving northward off the US Atlantic Seaboard, kicking up dangerous surf and rip currents. But it wasn't expected to make landfall.

It was centred about 680 km south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and was moving north at 13 km/h. It had maximum sustained winds of 130 km/h.

In the Pacific, Tropical Storm Norma's threat to Mexico's Los Cabos area appeared to be easing. Forecasters said the storm was weakening and its centre was likely to remain offshore.

The storm had winds of about 75 km/h and it was centered about 250 km south-southwest of Cabo San Lucas. That area was hit two weeks ago by Tropical Storm Lidia, which flooded streets and homes and killed at least four people.

The Baja California Sur state government readied storm shelters and cancelled classes for Monday as well as calling off a Mexican Independence Day military parade in the state capital, La Paz.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Lee formed in the Atlantic and Tropical Storm Otis in the Pacific on Saturday. Neither threatened land.

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