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Hurricane Maria Makes Landfall In Puerto Rico


Hurricane Maria has made landfall in Puerto Rico. Officials say this could be the strongest hurricane ever to hit the U.S. territory, and that is unnerving even hurricane veterans on the island like Abel Mendez.

ABEL MENDEZ: I've never been that scare for a hurricane. This is totally, for me, different. This is totally different from the island, and I'm really scared right now.

KELLY: All right, so that is Puerto Rico overnight. The storm crashed into St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, which is where Tanya-Marie Singh lives.

TANYA-MARIE SINGH: You can hear it - the wind howling outside. You are hearing things being ripped up, things falling down, trees falling. I think one of my friends told me a tree fell on their carport. Doors are being ripped apart. So it's intense.

KELLY: Joining me now is NPR's Greg Allen.

And Greg, get us up to speed on how bad this storm is looking.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Well, we - there was some fear at some - for some time that Maria could hit Puerto Rico as a Category 5 storm. It is still a major storm, though, with 155-mile-per-hour winds, and it's...

KELLY: ...Downgraded to a Category 4 now, we should say.

ALLEN: That's right. And it's going east to west across the entire island, so it's going to hit every single person in Puerto Rico with hurricane-force winds. That's one of the concerns. The other concern is that as it goes across the island, it's going over the mountainous interior, and that will squeeze a lot of rainfall out of the storm.

We're expecting 12 to 18 inches, maybe 25 inches in some rain - some places in this mountainous terrain, and that could - causes flash flooding and mudslides. That's been a problem in the past in Puerto Rico and one that the governor and others are focused on. So that's why they warned everyone to get away - out of your homes if they're not sturdy enough to withstand these winds, to get to shelters.

There's some 500 shelters set up within Puerto Rico. We only know about 10- or 11,000 people in them so far, the governor says. So that's not as many as you might like to see in a situation like this. But we'll just have to watch and wait today, see how things turn out for Puerto Rico.

KELLY: OK, thanks, Greg, for that update.

ALLEN: You're welcome.

KELLY: That's NPR's Greg Allen. He's in Miami tracking the path of Hurricane Maria, which has now made landfall in Puerto Rico. If Hurricane Maria is affecting you, we would love to hear about it. Let us know. You can email us. We're at hurricane@npr.org. Or you can go to npr.org and tell us your story. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.