Maria drops below major hurricane status

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - 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.

An update from the Miami-based center 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 centered about 25 miles (45 kilometers) north-northwest of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, and moving to the northwest at 12 mph (19 kph).

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.

Elsewhere, Tropical Storm Jose is still kicking up dangerous surf and currents along much of the U.S. Eastern seaboard. The storm's center was located at 5 p.m. Wednesday about 145 miles (235 kilometers) 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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