A unsafe storm surge of at least 6 to 9 feet was expected on the island, NHC said. The eastern end of Cuba and the Bahamas could feel tropical-storm force winds as early as Thursday and Friday if Maria stays on its present path, forecasters said.
The hurricane strengthened rapidly over the last 24 hours after forecasters declaredMaria officially to be a hurricane with winds near 90 mph late Sunday afternoon.
Rain accumulations of 6 to 12 inches, with isolated maximum amounts of 20 inches, are forecast across the Leeward Islands, including Puerto Rico, as well as the USA and British Virgin Islands - where residents had just started to return after evacuating for Irma - through Wednesday night.
"Rainfall on all of these islands could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides". Maria packed winds of about 160 miles per hour as it moved through the Caribbean Sea.
Another storm, Hurricane Jose, is now lurking farther north in the Atlantic, and is now projected to cause high tides and surf in areas of New England, according to the NHC.