As many as 25 inches of rain are expected to hit Puerto Rico, with storm surges of up to 9 feet and the possibility of tornadoes on Wednesday, the San Juan office of the U.S. National Weather Service said. Sustained winds are expected to be 105 to 125 miles per hour with gusts up to 175 miles per hour, the weather service said. "We shall survive by the grace of God", Skerrit said on Facebook. The last time a Category 4 storm struck the island was in 1932.
It then continued moving towards Puerto Rico as a category 5 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 270 km/h.
President Donald Trump has declared states of emergency in both territories, and the Coast Guard has moved all its ships, aircraft and personnel out of harm's way so they can quickly launch rescue missions once the storm passes, officials said. While the storm diverted north instead of directly hitting Puerto Rico, more than 1.5 million people lost power, Reuters reported. The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority has said parts of the island could be without electricity for up to six months.
The governor told USA Today on Monday that he expected Maria to "essentially devastate most of the island", and experts estimate the damage in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands will exceed $30 billion.
"We're going to have to rebuild", he said. "Be careful, our hearts are with you- will be there to help". As of Tuesday night, the hurricane was moving past St. Croix with wind speeds up to 175 miles per hour.
"This is an unprecedented atmospheric system", he said Tuesday.
Hurricane Maria has a wind speed of 204 km per hour and has blown away numerous roofs and is bringing down trees and electric poles.
With Tropical Storm Jose sitting off-shore, New Yorkers avoided its worst effects Tuesday. "We're scared but we have faith", Mary Kathryn Barron said.