Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands are yet again closed to vessels as Hurricane Maria approaches the area, only two weeks after the previously set port condition ZULU.
Effective 8 am local time on September 19, the Coast Guard Captain of the Port San Juan, Capt. Eric P. King, set port condition ZULU for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands due to the possibility of sustained gale force winds greater than 39 mph from the hurricane.
While port condition ZULU is in place no vessels may enter or transit within these ports without permission of the COTP. All vessel movements are prohibited at this time, and all ship-to-shore operations must cease until further notice, the USCG said.
As it approached areas of the Caribbean that were already devastated by Hurricane Irma, Maria strengthened to a “potentially catastrophic” Category 5 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.
According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), Maria’s winds strengthened on Tuesday afternoon to 165 mph and higher gusts as it moved in on St. Croix. NHC informed that Maria is moving toward the west-northwest near 10 mph.
“A west-northwest to northwest motion is expected to continue through today, followed by a northwestward motion on Thursday. On the forecast track, the eye of Maria will cross Puerto Rico today, and pass just north of the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic tonight and Thursday,” NHC said.