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Hurricane Maria Nears Turks And Caicos

Posted: Updated:
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -

Hurricane Maria lashed the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic on Thursday after leaving a path of destruction in Puerto Rico.

Maria left millions of people in Puerto Rico facing the dispiriting prospect of weeks and perhaps months without electricity.

The Category 3 storm was blamed for at least 19 deaths. Maria's next potential target was the Turks and Caicos Islands, which are still recovering from Hurricane Irma.

On Wednesday, Maria barreled through Puerto Rico from end to end, knocking out all the power. It was the strongest hurricane to hit the U.S. commonwealth in more than 80 years. Officials said recovery will take months.

CBS News' David Begnaud reports that in the coastal city of Cantano, residents forged through flooded streets, heading to the only open grocery store. Only five were allowed in at a time to avoid chaos.

Begnaud said in the small town of Toa Baja, hundreds of residents were rescued by the National Guard, packed into trucks while scores of others waded through two feet of water, carrying what's left of their possessions.

Hurricane Maria, still a Category 3 storm, is taking its time approaching the Turks and Caicos, the National Hurricane Center said.

Dangerous high winds and torrential rains continued along the northern coast of the Dominican Republic as the storm slowly moves closer to Turks and Caicos. 

Maria's eye is expected to gradually move away from the northern coast of the Dominican Republic and then move near or just east of the Turks and Caicos Islands and southeastern Bahamas on Friday.

Puerto Rico is still being lashed by rain, and flash flooding warnings continue. 

The White House says President Trump spoke with the governors of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Mr. Trump said earlier Thursday that Puerto Rico was "absolutely obliterated" and the Virgin Islands were "flattened" by recent hurricanes Irma and Maria.

The entire island of Puerto Rico was left without power after Maria knocked out its already weakened electrical grid.

Mr. Trump said FEMA and other emergency responders are helping both U.S. territories begin the recovery process.

He says he'll visit Puerto Rico.
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, whose family is from Puerto Rico, says she hasn't yet heard from half her family after Hurricane Maria walloped the island.

Sotomayor, the high court's first Hispanic justice, was speaking Thursday at an event at the Newseum in Washington. She said Puerto Rico "is suffering a great tragedy right now."

Sotomayor says that she and her family in the United States are "exceedingly concerned." She asked for the crowd's prayers for Puerto Rico but also the other islands, Texas and Florida that have been recently impacted by hurricanes.

Sotomayor's parents immigrated to the United States from Puerto Rico before she was born. Sotomayor grew up in New York.

8 p.m.: Hurricane Maria's large eye gradually approaching Turks and Caicos Islands
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) released its latest advisory tonight to say that Hurricane Maria is gradually nearing the Turks and Caicos Islands with sustained winds of 125 mph -- a slight uptick from the 120 mph winds earlier in the night.

Maria is moving toward the northwest near 9 mph, NHC says, and the eye will continue to pass offshore of the northern coast of the Dominican Republic this evening, and then move near or just east of the Turks and Caicos Islands and southeastern Bahamas later tonight and on Friday.

NHC says an additional 4 to 8 inches of rain is expected in Puerto Rico and an isolated maximum storm total totaling 40 inches.

Tropical storm conditions are possible in the central Bahamas beginning late Friday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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