Red flags up in Nags Head as Maria moves closer

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP/NOAA) — The Latest on Hurricane Maria and its devastation of Puerto Rico (all times local):

12:45 p.m.

Puerto Rico’s government says engineers will inspect the Guajataca Dam on Sunday to determine the extent of damage inflicted by Hurricane Maria last week.

The dam was cracked but had not burst by late Saturday. But Public Affairs Secretary Ramon Rosario Rosario said in a statement that the dam’s “fissure was big and it will collapse at any minute.”

Fears that the dam would fail prompted the government to evacuate nearby residents.

The 345-yard (316-meter) dam was built around 1928. It holds back a man-made lake covering about 2 square miles (5 square kilometers).

More than 15 inches (nearly 40 centimeters) of rain from Maria fell on the surrounding mountains.

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11:45 a.m.

A French warship has brought reconstruction equipment to Caribbean islands slammed by hurricanes Irma and Maria as part of broader efforts to help French territories cope with extreme weather.

The Defense Ministry said Sunday the helicopter carrier Tonnerre has arrived with more than 1,000 tons of material and 300 additional military personnel for the cleanup on St. Martin and nearby islands. That brings the total French military presence to 2,000 people.

It also said Defense Minister Florence Parly is ordering a new patrol ship to be permanently stationed in the Caribbean to help with future storms and to fight trafficking.

A joint French, British and Dutch aid coordination effort is also underway for Caribbean territories with lingering ties to Europe, after criticism that governments didn’t sufficiently prepare the islands for this season’s hurricanes.

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11:15 a.m.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Maria has weakened slightly as it moves northward, but it’s still likely to bring increasing swells and high surf to the Southeastern U.S. coast.

Maria, which walloped Puerto Rico as a Category 4 hurricane last week, is now a Category 2 storm with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph (165 kph)

The Hurricane Center says it was centered about 475 miles (765 kilometers) south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina before noon Sunday.

It said people along the Carolina and Mid-Atlantic coasts should monitor the storm.

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5 a.m.

The latest advisory from The National Hurricane Center Sunday morning says there are no coastal watches or warnings in effect. But areas along the Carolina and Mid-Atlantic coasts should monitor the progress of Maria. Tropical storm or hurricane watches may be needed for a portion of the coast later today.

The storm is Maria is moving toward the north near 9 mph (15 km/h), and this general motion is expected to continue through Monday. On the forecast track, the core of Maria will be moving well east of the United States southeast coast during the next two days.

Reports from a NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that maximum sustained winds are now near 110 mph (175 km/h) with higher gusts. Maria is a category 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Some fluctuations in intensity are likely during the next day or so.

4:55 p.m.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says people along the Carolinas and the Mid-Atlantic coasts should watch the progress of Maria.

The storm is about 285 miles (460 kilometers) east of Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas.

The hurricane center said Saturday that tropical storm or hurricane watches may be needed for a portion of the Carolinas or Mid-Atlantic coast on Sunday.

Maria is a Category 3 storm and is expected to stay off the East Coast, but the system is generating swells along the southeastern coast.

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4:10 p.m.

The death toll from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico is now at least 10.

That number includes two police officers who drowned in floodwaters in the western town of Aguada. The number of deaths is expected to climb as officials from remote towns continue to check in with officials in San Juan.

Authorities in the town of Vega Alta on the north coast said Saturday they had been unable to reach an entire neighborhood called Fatima, and were particularly worried about residents of a nursing home.

Officials say the humanitarian crisis is growing as towns are left without fresh water, fuel, power or phone service.

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12:25 p.m.

Dozens of anxious mayors are arriving to meet with Puerto Rico’s governor to present a long list of things they urgently need after Hurricane Maria devastated the island.

They mayors they are worried about hospitals, a home for the elderly and bridges that have collapsed.

Jose Sanchez Gonzalez, the mayor of the north coastal town of Manati, says he needs basic supplies such as water, ice and gas immediately.

He says hysteria is starting to spread and the hospital is at capacity and people are going to start dying.

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11 a.m.

Forecasters say Hurricane Maria is causing dangerous surf and rip currents along the East Coast of the U.S. after the storm devastated Puerto Rico.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Saturday that the storm’s winds had decreased to 115 mph (185 kph).

Maria is a Category 3 storm and is expected to stay well off the East Coast, but the system is generating swells along the southeastern coast. The waves will increase along the Mid-Atlantic coast Saturday night and Sunday.

In Puerto Rico, officials are rushing to evacuate tens of thousands of people living downstream from a failing dam.

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6 a.m.

Puerto Rican officials could not communicate with more than half the towns in the U.S. territory as they rushed to evacuate tens of thousands of people downstream of a failing dam.

Authorities launched an evacuation of the 70,000 people living downstream from the Guajataca Dam in northwest Puerto Rico, sending buses to move people away Friday and posting frantic warnings on Twitter that went unseen by many in the blacked-out coastal area.

The 345-yard (316-meter) dam was built around 1928. It holds back a man-made lake covering about 2 square miles (5 square kilometers). More than 15 inches (nearly 40 centimeters) of rain fell on the surrounding mountains after the Category 4 Maria left the island Wednesday afternoon.