April 9 (UPI) — Hurricane Maria caused an estimated $90 billion in damage in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the National Hurricane Center said Monday.
As part of its final assessment of the storm, the NHC said Hurricane Maria was the most destructive hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in modern times and the third costliest hurricane in U.S. history behind Katrina and Harvey. The NHC said the price tag had a 90 percent certainty.
“The combined destructive power of storm surge and wave action from Maria produced extensive damage to buildings, homes and roads along the east and southeast coast of Puerto Rico as well as the south coasts of Vieques and St. Croix,” the NHC said.
Maria also knocked down 80 percent of Puerto Rico’s utility poles and all transmission lines, resulting in loss of power to essentially all of the island’s 3.4 million residents. Nearly all cellphone and municipal water supplies also were knocked out.
The NHC reported the official death count stands at 65, but said the number could increase following further investigation.
“It should be noted that hundreds of additional indirect deaths in Puerto Rico may eventually be attributed to Maria’s aftermath pending the results of an official government review,” the center said.
Maria achieved a peak wind intensity of 172 mph and its 74 mph increase in intensity within 24 hours on Sept. 18 made it the sixth-fastest intensifying hurricane in the Atlantic basin record.
The hurricane also generated storm surge at maximum inundation levels of 6 feet to 9 feet above ground level along the coasts of Puerto Rico’s Humacao, Naguabo and Ceiba municipalities.
Heavy rains brought on by Maria caused heavy flooding as river discharges at many locations in the island were at record or near-record levels and one location in Puerto Rico experienced a storm total of nearly 38 inches of rainwater.