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Maria on final approach to Puerto Rico with 175 MPH winds

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Posted at 9:06 PM, Sep 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-19 21:06:09-04

Just 12 days ago, residents on the US island territory of Puerto Rico were sideswiped by then Category 5 Hurricane Irma. Even with the eye of Irma missing Puerto Rico by 50 miles, the storm knocked out power and did damage. 

As Category 5 Hurricane Maria churns in the Caribbean late Tuesday, it is expected to strike the island head on. 

As of Tuesday evening, Maria had top winds of 175 MPH and a minimum pressure of 909 MBs. Although Hurricane Irma had top sustained winds of 185 MPH, Irma's pressure never dropped below 914 MBs. 

In preparation, President Donald Trump has ordered an emergency declaration, freeing up disaster resources. 

FEMA Director Brock Long said that the agency is sending extra supplies to the US Virgin Islands, and the Virginia Task Force 1 urban search and rescue team is remaining in Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello told NPR that the territory has opened 500 shelter and is expecting "severe devastation."

"Our main focus is to shift focus from the recovery process of Irma to make sure everyone is in a safe shelter," Rossello said. 

Adding to the potential disaster, Puerto Rico's mountainous terrain could cause landslides. In addition, winds typically increase with height.