Hurricane Maria pounded the small island of Dominica with catastrophic winds on Monday night. The storm is charging into the eastern Caribbean threatening islands wrecked by Irma. Maria’s top sustained winds were 160 mph on Tuesday morning.
Florida, still in recovery mode from Irma’s carnage, should be spared the wrath of Hurricane Maria, and the storm may end up following Jose’s path to avoid a direct hit on the East Coast.
Forecasters predict Maria, a major hurricane that has been fluctuating between Category 4 and Category 5 strength, will spin north and then east before it would threaten the East Coast with rain and heavy surf early next week, said AccuWeather senior meteorologist Rob Miller.
It is still too early to determine its exact path off the East Coast, but signs are promising Maria could avoid a U.S. landfall, Miller said.
“It seems at this point that the most likely track for Maria would be similar to Jose, staying off the coast but maybe close enough to clip the Outer Banks, maybe New England,” he said.
Hurricane Jose, which continued to spin just south of New England on Tuesday, could even help guide Maria away from the U.S. and out to sea.
Jose is forecast to help weaken a large ridge of high pressure currently parked over the the eastern U.S. and much of the Atlantic, according to Weather Underground meteorologist Bob Henson.
That high-pressure area is largely responsible for the warm and humid weather pattern currently gripping the central and eastern United States, according to AccuWeather.
“There is strong agreement among our best track models that Maria will be following in the footsteps of Hurricane Jose,” moving into the area carved out by Jose’s week-long presence, Henson said.
Had it not been for Jose, the high-pressure area would have become a single solid, sprawling ridge, which could have guided Maria west on a track similar to Irma.
Additionally, there will be enough west-to-east flow in the jetstream to push Maria out to sea, Henson said.
Jose remained a Category 1 hurricane Tuesday afternoon, with 75-mph sustained winds driving rip currents and rough surf along much of the East Coast, a pattern that could continue for a few days.
Tropical-storm warnings were posted along the southeastern New England coast, including most of the Rhode Island and Massachusetts coastline. Jose will produce heavy rain as it passes near southern New England and the Mid-Atlantic on Tuesday and Wednesday, the hurricane center said.
A similar path for Maria would be joyous news for Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, states still in recovery mode after being battered by Hurricane Irma.
“We don’t want to let our guard down,” Miller said. “But the consensus is that the storm keeps off the coast, maybe significantly off the coast.”