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Hurricane Maria expected to pass close to the Carolinas next week

11 a.m. National Hurricane Center forecast for Maria. The storm will be hovering off the Carolina coast by midweek.

Hurricane Maria maintained a Category 3 status Saturday morning, slowly moving north and away from the Bahamas with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph. While Maria is not expected to impact any landmass for the next several days, concerns of some type of impact along the southeastern U.S. coast in the middle of next week are growing after the latest model runs.

From Monday to Thursday, Maria is forecast stall between Bermuda and the East Coast, cut off from the jet stream which would otherwise carry it away. During that time, Maria will be hovering a bit too close for comfort to the Carolina coastline.

Most global model simulations keep Maria meandering offshore and away from the East Coast, showing the storm eventually getting picked up by a cold front Friday and pushed out to sea.  However, the exact position of Maria’s stall is uncertain, and recent model trends have placed the storm further to the west and closer to the Carolina coast, prompting the National Hurricane Center to shift its official track in an 11 a.m. update.

The time window when the Southeast Coast would potentially face tropical-storm conditions spans between about Tuesday and Thursday. While it’s too soon to nail down specifics, rainy, windy conditions and some coastal flooding are possible – especially around the North Carolina Outer Banks. However, it’s unlikely the coast would face severe hurricane conditions as the storm center should remain offshore and Maria is forecast to weaken to Category 2 or 1 when it makes its closest approach.

Changes in Maria’s track will need to be monitored closely over the next few days. In particular, the exact strength and position of two high-pressure features by early next week will dictate just how close Maria will get to the East Coast.

Through the weekend, Maria’s impacts to the East Coast will be limited, with the NHC stating that “dangerous surf and rip currents (are) expected at southeastern United States beaches for the next several days.” Regardless of the exact track, Maria should track closely enough for tropical-storm-force conditions to impact the Outer Banks by early next week.

Hurricane Maria caused widespread damage to Puerto Rico. Drone footage captured the scene in San Juan and Canóvanas on Sept. 21. (Video: Hector Santos Guia/The Washington Post)