Hurricane Maria Could Threaten North Carolina Later This Week

(Bloomberg) -
A view of Buena Vista community from the Teodoro Moscoso bridge in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sunday. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

For the fourth time in a month, a hurricane is threatening the United States.

Hurricane Maria could prompt storm watches along North Carolina’s Outer Banks as it rolls north after killing at least 10 people and knocking out power to the entire U.S. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The storm, which struck the island as a Category 4 major hurricane, threatens to at least graze the U.S. East Coast later this week.

“It is likely that some direct impacts will occur along portions of the coast next week,” wrote Jack Beven, a senior hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami. “Swells from Maria are increasing along the coast of the southeastern United States and are expected to reach the Mid-Atlantic coast (Sun)day.”

Across the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, tropical storms have killed at least 100. Ten people died in Puerto Rico, according to the Associated Press.

A record three Category 4 hurricanes have hit the U.S. since Harvey came ashore in Texas on Aug. 25, causing an estimated $170 billion damage, according to Enki Research in Savannah, Georgia. When damage across the Caribbean is considered, the current Atlantic season could cost $300 billion, said Joel Myers, founder, president and chairman of AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania.

Maria’s economic cost to Puerto Rico could increase if the islands sees an exodus of residents fearful that water and power could be out for months, said Chuck Watson, of Enki Research.

“The people most able to leave, professionals, middle class, may well choose to leave,” Watson said Sunday. “Those people are vital to restore normalcy, so a recovery death spiral of sorts starts.”

If that happens, Maria’s impacts on Puerto Rico could easily reach $60 billion to $70 billion, Watson said.

The storms had deep impacts on markets as well. Harvey temporarily shut about 25 percent of oil and natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico and 10 percent of U.S. refining capacity. Hurricane Irma subjected Florida’s citrus groves to fruit losses that have completely wiped out some farmers.

Maria was about 530 miles (853 kilometers) south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, Sunday morning, with top winds of 110 miles per hour, making it a Category 2. The storm has been losing power since it struck Dominica and Puerto Rico last week.

Along with Maria, Hurricane Lee, a Category 1 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, is churning in the central Atlantic and isn’t a threat to land, the hurricane center said. In all, six storms have become strong enough to earn names and all have gone on to become hurricanes. Four became major systems, Category 3 or stronger, including Harvey, Irma and Maria.

While the past month has been devastating, the 2017 season doesn’t end until Nov. 30 and warm ocean temperatures suggest there are still more storms to come, said Phil Klotzbach, lead author of the Colorado State University seasonal hurricane forecast.

The ocean temperatures “match up well with what is typically observed when the end of the Atlantic hurricane season is active,” Klotzbach said in a tweet last week.