Maria continues strengthening, hits 175 mph

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MIAMI (AP) -- 10pm Update

Jose has weakened to a tropical storm, but forecasters expect dangerous surf and rip currents will continue along the East Coast of the U.S. for several days.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami says Jose's top winds have decreased to about 70 mph Tuesday night, and it's expected to weaken more over the next two days.

The storm is 230 miles south of Nantucket, Massachusetts, and is forecast to pass well east of New Jersey's coast Wednesday.

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The eye of Category 5 Hurricane Maria is approaching St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami reported Tuesday night that the storm was about 30 miles south-southeast of St. Croix and about 120 miles southeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Maria has 175 mph winds and is moving west-northwest at 10 mph.

Forecasters expect the core of storm with to reach southeastern Puerto Rico on Wednesday morning.
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As of 6pm (CDT), Category 5 Hurricane Maria's maximum sustained winds have increased to 175 mph.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami says an Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter plane took the reading Tuesday evening as the storm was about 70 miles (115 kilometers) southeast of St. Croix.

Maria is moving west-northwest at 10 mph (17 kph), and is expected to pass near the U.S. Virgin Islands on Tuesday night and hit Puerto Rico on Wednesday.

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5 p.m.

An even stronger Hurricane Maria is moving steadily toward the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico and is likely to still be a powerful category 5 storm when it arrives.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami reported that Maria's winds had intensified to 165 mph (265 kph) late Tuesday afternoon, and that some additional strengthening was possible Tuesday evening.

At 5 p.m. Tuesday, Maria was centered about 175 miles (280 kilometers) southeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and was moving west-northwest at 10 mph (16 kph).

A hurricane warning was in effect for Puerto Rico and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, as well as St. Kitts, Nevis, and Montserrat and portions of the Dominican Republic.

Hurricane center forecasters say it "now appears likely" that Maria will still be at category 5 intensity when it moves over the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

The center of the hurricane was forecast to move near or over the U.S. Virgin Island of St. Croix and Puerto Rico on Tuesday night and Wednesday, bringing with it "life-threatening" flooding from rain and storm surge.