Hurricane Maria is now a Category 3 storm packing winds of 120mph and gathering speed.
Montserrat is expected to get at minimum tropical storm force winds by early Tuesday according to the Antigua & Barbuda Meteorological Service.
At 11AM, Hurricane Maria was centered about 60 miles (95 km) east of Martinique and about 95 miles (150 km) east-southeast of Dominica. Maria is moving toward the west-northwest near 10 mph (17 km/h), and this motion with some decrease in forward speed is expected through Tuesday night. On the forecast track, the center of Maria will move across the Leeward Islands late today and tonight, over the extreme northeastern Caribbean Sea Tuesday and Tuesday night, and approach Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands on Wednesday.
The Government of Montserrat has announced that the hurricane shelters will open on Monday evening from 6PM. Residents are asked to make use of them if they are not confident that their homes can withstand the coming storm.
Government offices were closed at noon on Monday and all essential services will remain in operation. Carlysle Williams, Acting Director of the Disaster Management Coordination Agency (DMCA) is urging the public to take the impending storm seriously and prepare to protect lives and property.
Reports from an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that maximum sustained winds have increased to near 120 mph (195 km/h) with higher gusts – a Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Additional rapid strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours, and Maria is expected to be a dangerous major hurricane as it moves through the Leeward Islands and the northeastern Caribbean Sea. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 15 miles (30 km) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 125 miles (205 km).
A Hurricane Warning is in effect for Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Kitts, Nevis, and Montserrat, Martinique, St. Lucia, U.S. Virgin Islands and British Virgin Islands. A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for Antigua and Barbuda, Saba and St. Eustatius, St. Maarten and Anguilla. A Hurricane Watch is in effect for Puerto Rico, Vieques, and Culebra, Saba and St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, St. Martin and St. Barthelemy and Anguilla. A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Hurricane conditions are first expected within portions of the Leeward Islands by late today, with tropical storm conditions beginning during the next few hours. Hurricane conditions should spread through the remainder of the hurricane warning area tonight through Tuesday night.
The next advisory will be issued by the National Hurricane Center at 5 p.m. AST -Â www.hurricanes.gov