UPDATE 9/20/17 @ 6:20 a.m.
SAN JUAN (AP) -- Hurricane Maria has lowered to a Category 4 storm, but is about to hit Puerto Rico directly with 155 mph winds.
Thousands heeded officials warnings and went to shelters ahead of the storm hitting.
"As of 2:30 a.m. we count 10,059 refugees and 189 pets (in shelters)," the island's governor, Ricardo Rosselló, wrote in a tweet Wednesday morning.
The storms conditions are expected to intensify between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. Wednesday morning, when the eye wall packs it's strongest winds.
Forecasters are calling Maria a "record-breaking event."
Storm surges are expected to be between 6-9 feet.
Keep checking WSAZ Mobile and WSAZ.com for the latest information.
UPDATE 9/19/17 @ 6:30 a.m.
MIAMI (AP) -- Hurricane Maria made landfall in Dominica with winds at 160 mph.
Evacuation orders were made due to the storm strengthening at a fast rate.
Maria will pass over the same areas devastated by Hurricane Irma just two weeks ago, according to Forecasters.
The area could see rip currents, high waves and up to 3 inches of rain.
Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skeritt says there are initial reports of "widespread devastation" in the small island from Hurricane Maria.
Maria's next move is to hit Puerto Rico later today.
UPDATE 9/18/17 @ 8:10 p.m.
MIAMI (AP) -- Forecasters say Hurricane Maria has become a Category 5 storm as the eye nears Dominica.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Monday evening that Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter planes found that Maria had strengthened into a storm with 160 mph winds.
The hurricane is about 15 miles east-southeast of Dominica and moving west-northwest at 9 mph.
UPDATE 9/18/17 @ 5:10 p.m.
MIAMI (AP) -- Hurricane Maria has intensified into a dangerous Category 4 storm as it bears down on the Caribbean.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Monday the storm is growing in strength as it approaches land.
The eye of the storm is expected to pass near the island of Dominica on Monday evening.
The center called the storm "extremely dangerous," with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph (215 kph).
At 5 p.m. EDT, the storm was centered about 45 miles (70 kilometers) east-southeast of Dominica.
A Hurricane warning has been issued for Puerto Rico, Culebra, and Vieques.
ORIGINAL STORY 9/18/17
(CNN) -- As the Caribbean islands try to recover from Hurricane Irma, that just hit them days ago, Hurricane Maria is strengthening at a fast pace.
The National Hurricane Center said, ""Significant strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours, and Maria is expected to become a dangerous major hurricane before it moves through the Leeward Islands."
Hurricane Maria is currently a Category 1 storm with 90 mph winds.
The storm is about 100 miles east of Martinique.
Forecasters are expecting Maria to strengthen to a Category 3 or 4 by the time she makes landfall Tuesday, into Tuesday night.