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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Hurricane Maria is moving away from Puerto Rico but torrential rains continue.

At 11 p.m. Wednesday, the center the storm was about 55 miles northeast of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

Maria is moving toward the northwest near 9 mph, and this general motion with a decrease in forward speed is expected through Thursday night.

A turn toward the north-northwest is forecast on Friday.

On the forecast track, the core of Hurricane Maria will continue to move away from Puerto Rico during the next several hours, and then pass offshore of the northeastern coast of the Dominican Republic early Thursday.

Maria should then move near the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas Thursday night and Friday.

Maximum sustained winds remain near 110 mph with higher gusts. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 60 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 150 miles. Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic recently reported a wind gust to 66 mph.

Some strengthening is forecast during the next day or two, and Maria could regain major hurricane status by Thursday.

SUMMARY OF WATCHES AND WARNINGS IN EFFECT:

A Hurricane Warning is in effect for…

  • Dominican Republic from Cabo Engano to Puerto Plata
  • Turks and Caicos Islands and the Southeastern Bahamas

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for…

  • Dominican Republic west of Puerto Plata to the northern border of the Dominican Republic and Haiti
  • Dominican Republic west of Cabo Engano to Punta Palenque

A Hurricane Watch is in effect for…

  • Dominican Republic from Isla Saona to Cabo Engano

HAZARDS AFFECTING LAND

WIND:  Hurricane conditions are occurring over portions of Puerto Rico, and tropical storm conditions are continuing over the remainder of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.  Tropical storm conditions are likely beginning in the warning areas in the Dominican Republic, and hurricane conditions should start in the hurricane warning area tonight. Tropical storm conditions are expected to begin in the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas Thursday morning, with hurricane conditions starting Thursday evening.

Wind speeds atop and on the windward sides of hills and mountains and on high-rise buildings could be much stronger than the near- surface winds indicated in this advisory.

STORM SURGE:  The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline.  The water is expected to reach the following heights above ground if the peak surge occurs at the time of high tide…Puerto Rico…6 to 9 ft.

The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast near and to the north and east of the landfall location, where the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves.  Surge-related flooding depends on the relative timing of the surge and the tidal cycle, and can vary greatly over short distances.  For information specific to your area, please see products issued by your local National Weather Service forecast office.

A dangerous storm surge accompanied by large and destructive waves will raise water levels by as much as 4 to 6 feet above normal tide levels in the hurricane warning area in the Dominican Republic, and 1 to 3 ft elsewhere along the northern coasts of the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

A dangerous storm surge accompanied by large and destructive waves will raise water levels by as much as 10 to 15 feet above normal tide levels in the hurricane warning area near and to the north of the center of Maria for both the Southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

RAINFALL:  Maria is expected to produce the following rainfall totals through Friday:

Puerto Rico…20 to 25 inches, isolated 35 inches U.S. and British Virgin Islands…additional 5 to 10 inches, isolated 15 inches Northern and eastern Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos and southeast Bahamas…8 to 16 inches, isolated 20 inches Northern Haiti…2 to 4 inches.

Rainfall on these islands will cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides.

TORNADOES:  Several tornadoes are possible over Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands today.

SURF:  Swells generated by Maria are affecting the Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.  These swells will begin affecting the northern coast of Hispaniola, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the Southeastern Bahamas during the next day or two.

These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.  Please consult products from your local weather office.

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