PRESS RELEASE — For all residents of the Virgin Islands I am urging you not to take the approach of Hurricane Maria lightly. As of this morning Maria has re-strengthened to a category 5 hurricane.

Based on the forecast track, the eye of Maria will move over the northeastern Caribbean today, and approach the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico tonight and Wednesday. Maximum sustained winds are near 160 mph with higher gusts.  Maria is a potentially catastrophic category 5 hurricane.  Some fluctuations in intensity are likely during the next day or two, but Maria is forecast to remain an extremely dangerous hurricane while it approaches the Virgin Islands.

{podcast id=5}Maria is expected to produce rain accumulations through Thursday of 10 to 15 inches and isolated 20 inches across the British Virgin Islands. Rainfall could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides. Our islands are vulnerable right now and I ask that each and every one take every possible opportunity to secure themselves and their loved ones.  Particularly for those living in low lying and sea-front areas, storm surges are projected to be high and will be dangerous. I urge you to move to a shelter or with loved ones or friends inland or on higher ground. 

All residents of the BVI are urged to monitor the movement of Maria closely and take action to protect life first, before property. I ask that you continue to monitor local media stations, in particular DDM’s website and their Facebook page – BVIDDM for regular updates. In addition, ZBVI will also be on air and will be providing updates as available.

Again I urge each person in the Virgin Islands not to take this hurricane lightly, it is expected to add additional pressure on our already stressed systems and we must do all that we can immediately to protect ourselves. I know that as a Territory we will get through this hurricane season, but right now, I urge you to adhere to all warnings and be prepared for the approach of Hurricane Maria as weather conditions worsen later today.  May God continue to bless each of us, and may we all remain BVI Strong.

— Dr. Orlando Smith, Virgin Islands Premier