Hurricane Maria pummels Dominica, barrels toward US Virgin Islands; see pictures

Will Maria follow in Irma's footsteps?

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Hurricane Maria briefly weakened to a Category 4 storm after making landfall over Dominica but quickly regained its strength as it churned near Guadeloupe.

"House is flooding", the prime minister updated later in the night, before announcing, "I have been rescued".

Late on Monday evening, ahead of the storm's arrival, he warned "non-essential vehicles must keep off roads from 6pm tonight".

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Last night Dominica PM Roosevelt Skerrit sent out a chilling message on his Facebook page indicating that his roof had blown off and that he was "at the mercy of the hurricane". It is now sustaining maximum winds of 160 miles per hour and moving west-northwest at 9 miles per hour.

Maria marks the 13th named Atlantic storm of the year, the seventh hurricane so far this season and the fourth major hurricane - defined as Category 3 or higher - following Harvey, Irma and Jose, the NHC said.

Also in the Atlantic, Hurricane Jose is producing unsafe surf and rip currents along the East Coast of the United States.

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Hurricane warnings are in place throughout the area, which is still recovering from Hurricane Irma's landfall less than two weeks ago.

NBC News meteorologist Bill Karins highlighted that Maria was one of the fastest intensifying hurricanes ever recorded. Federal assistance will now refocus from Irma recovery efforts toward preparing for Maria and the Coast Guard will send aircraft to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

The Global Precipitation Measurement mission or GPM core satellite captured an image of Jose overnight at 3:36 UTC on Sept. 18 (11:36 p.m. EDT, Sept. 17) as the storm was moving due north at 9 miles per hour well off shore from the coast of North Carolina. A tropical storm warning remains in effect for the coast of Rhode Island, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, and it could cause some flooding-but not hurricane conditions-from Long Island to the coast of MA. Schools, ports and airports have all been closed in the island and other islands nearby.

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Barnes said a high pressure system and weak steering currents in the models are keeping the storm away from SC. The island will be battered by hurricane-force winds for the "better part of a day" on Wednesday, he told CNN. However, according to forecasters, it could increase again as it moves towards Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

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