Hurricane Maria is forecast to become a major storm before it hits the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean, intensifying to a Category 4 hurricane in the next 48 hours, the media reported on Monday.

As of Monday 2 a.m. (local time), Maria was about 145 km north-northeast of Barbados and about 270 km east-southeast of Dominica, the US-based National Hurricane Center said.

The storm has strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane with winds of 90 mph, and is forecast to continue moving toward the eastern Caribbean at 13 mph, reports CNN.

“Maria continues to strengthen and is expected to be at major hurricane intensity when it affects portions of the Leeward Islands over the next few days, bringing dangerous wind, storm surge and rainfall hazards,” the Center said.

“Maria is likely to affect the British and US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico by mid-week as a dangerous major hurricane.”

Maria is one of three storms churning in the Atlantic Ocean, but it poses the most danger to the hurricane-battered Caribbean, CNN reported.

Maria has prompted a hurricane warning for Martinique, Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Kitts, Nevis and Montserrat.

A tropical storm warning is in effect for Antigua and Barbuda, Saba, St. Eustatius and St. Lucia.

A hurricane watch is in effect for the US Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, St. Martin, St. Barthelemy and Anguilla.

The catastrophic hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas on August 25 resulting in massive floods and deaths of 83 people.

Irma, the most intense storm in the Atlantic, hit the Caribbean islands on August 30, leaving a trail of destruction through Puerto Rico, Cuba and Florida. It killed 82 people.

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