Hurricane Maria is tracking toward the Leeward Islands. (National Hurricane Center)
HOLT, Fla., Sept. 17, 2017–Tropical Storm Maria was classified as a category one hurricane by the National Weather Service today as predicted.
An Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft investigated the storm today and found maximum sustained winds at 75 mph and an open eye wall.
Maria is moving west-northwest at 15 mph and is forecast to continue strengthening and potentially reach major hurricane by 48 hours, according to the NHC.
The storm is expected move across the Leeward islands as a category two hurricane Monday night and then over the extreme northeastern Caribbean Sea on Tuesday, according to the NHC.
After passing the islands, the storm is expected to gain strength to a category three hurricane before reaching the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico and is expected to remain a major hurricane on its way to the Dominican Republic and the Turks & Caicos islands later in the week.
Hurricane and tropical storm warnings have been issued for portions of the Leeward Islands and these warnings will likely be extended northward and westward tonight or Monday.
Hurricane watches have been issued for the U.S. and British Virgin Islands and could be extended to Puerto Rico tonight or early Monday.