Hurricane Maria Facts

Maria was the third category 5 hurricane to threaten the northern Caribbean in a matter of a few weeks. Hurricanes Irma and Jose had taken a slightly farther north course. Maria brought catastrophic damage to Dominica first, then Puerto Rico. In fact, it would become Puerto Rico's greatest natural disaster. It is now classified as the 3rd costliest hurricane in U.S. history when Puerto Rico is included.

Hurricane Maria satellite picture
Hurricane Maria satellite picture
Images / data courtesty of the National Hurricane Center / NOAA / NASA

Maria formed from a tropical wave on September 16th approximately 600 miles east southeast of the Lesser Antilles. It strengthened quickly and had reached hurricane strength by late in the day on the 17th. It was a threat to islands in the Caribbean that were recently struck by Hurricane Irma. Maria went through extreme deepening just before making landfall over Dominica on the evening of the 18th. It became a category 5 hurricane with top sustained winds of 160 mph. The eyewall also affected Martinique to the south of Dominica.

Maria strengthened to 175 mph after passing over Dominica and moving into the northeastern Caribbean.

An eyewall replacement cycle began and some slow weakening began as Maria approached St. Croix. The eye passed just southwest of St. a short while after midnight. St. Croix took the full brunt of the hurricane.

The hurricane continued northeast and made landfall on the southeast coast of Puerto Rico during the early morning of the 20th. Serious flooding, high winds and storm surge brought a devastating blow to the island. On the morning of the 22nd Maria approached the Turks and Caicos and once again brought damage to those islands.

Hurricane Maria would gradually move north, east of the Bahamas and U.S. east coast. North Carolina was brushed with tropical storm force wind gusts and some rain bands. The hurricane would lose tropical characteristics and gradually weaken over the over central Atlantic Ocean.

Hurricane Maria Rainfall over Puerto Rico
Hurricane Maria Rainfall

Maria will be primarly remembered as a devatating hurricane that hit Puerto Rico. It also was one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes in terms of pressure as well as wind speed. Only one other hurricane was stronger to make landfall on Puerto Rico - the San Felipe 2 hurricane of 1924.

Hurricane Maria Facts Summary
Preliminary data, subject to updates
  • Lowest pressure: 908 millibars / 26.81 inches, northeastern Caribbean Sea
  • Strongest winds: 175 mph, northeastern Caribbean Sea
  • Maximum Rainfall: SE Puerto Rico - 37.90"
  • Fatalities: at least 500
  • U.S. Damage: $0, Puerto Rico $90 billion
  • Total Damage: $103 billion

Do you want to find out more about other 2017 hurricanes? Check out our 2017 hurricane summaries.
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