Hurricane Maria downgraded to Category 2, storm may still strengthen

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WATCH ABOVE: Where is Hurricane Maria heading next? – Sep 20, 2017

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Maria has lost its major hurricane status, dropping to a Category 2 storm after raking Puerto Rico. But forecasters say some strengthening is in the forecast and Maria could again become a major hurricane by Thursday.

LIVE BLOG: Tracking Hurricane Maria’s path

An update from the Miami-based centre says a hurricane hunter plane clocked the top sustained winds of the storm at near 110 mph (175 kph) with higher gusts about 5 p.m. Wednesday. Maria’s fierce core was centred about 25 miles (45 kilometres) north-northwest of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, and moving to the northwest at 12 mph (19 kph).

WATCH: Hurricane Maria hammers Puerto Rico

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Forecasters say the dangerous storm system will continue moving away from the northwest coast of Puerto Rico in coming hours. It’s then expected to pass offshore of the northeast coast of the Dominical Republic this evening and early Thursday.

READ MORE: Hurricane Maria hammers Puerto Rico, knocks out power, unleashes heavy flooding

Elsewhere, Tropical Storm Jose is still kicking up dangerous surf and currents along much of the U.S. Eastern seaboard. The storm’s centre was located at 5 p.m. Wednesday about 145 miles (235 kilometres) south-southeast of Nantucket, Massachusetts and had top sustained winds of 70 mph (110 kph). It’s moving northeast at 8 mph (13 kph).

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