Human Interest The Caribbean Is Bracing For 'Potentially Catastrophic' Category 5 Hurricane Maria Hurricane Maria is taking aim at the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico By Jason Hahn Jason Hahn Jason Hahn is a former Human Interest and Sports Reporter for PEOPLE. He started at PEOPLE's Los Angeles Bureau as a writer and reporter in 2017 and interviewed the likes of Kobe Bryant, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom Brady. He has a B.A. in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Master's degree in Journalism from Columbia University. He previously worked for Complex Magazine in New York City. People Editorial Guidelines Published on September 18, 2017 08:32 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Hurricane Maria was upgraded to a Category 5 storm on Monday as it made its way toward the northeastern corner of the Caribbean with sustained 160-mph winds. Hurricane warnings are currently in effect for Puerto Rico, Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat, Martinique, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands. President Donald Trump approved an emergency declaration for the U.S. Virgin Islands on Monday, which authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA to coordinate disaster relief efforts. The National Hurricane Center expects the storm’s “eye and the intense inner core” to pass by the Caribbean island, Dominica, on late Monday. The center adds the hurricane is developing a “dreaded pinhole eye” that makes the storm spin faster. Forecasts from the National Hurricane Center currently show Maria barreling into Puerto Rico on Wednesday, and the island is expected to experience 12 to 18-inches of rain from the storm. “Maria is likely to affect Puerto Rico as an extremely dangerous major hurricane, and a hurricane warning has been issued for that island,” the National Hurricane Center said. Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló warned residents as the storm grew in strength “Severe flooding is expected,” Rosselló said. “We are urging that if you are in a dangerous area don’t think it won’t happen. Experts have told you today that the margin of error is very slim here.” Puerto Rico was largely unaffected by Hurricane Irma when it pummeled the area two weeks ago, but Irma left 38 people dead in the Caribbean and devastated the U.S. territories St. John and St. Thomas. Necker Island, Richard Branson’s private island—where he now famously took shelter in his wine cellar as Hurricane Irma hit—was largely damaged by Irma as well. (Necker will not be hit by Hurricane Maria, forecasts predict.) Residents in the Caribbean took to social media to share what their homes looked like before the storm: As of now, it’s too early to say if Maria will hit the U.S. mainland, but as USA Today notes: there are still 73 days left in the Atlantic hurricane season.