Hurricane Maria intensified into a Category 5 storm Tuesday morning after slamming into the island of Dominica the previous night. Maria packed winds of about 160 mph as it made its way toward Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Maria had the potential to impact areas already devastated by this month’s Hurricane Irma. Irma, in comparison, brought winds of up to 185 mph when it decimated the small Caribbean island of Barbuda. Irma’s winds lessened to about 130 mph when the storm hit the Florida Keys as a Category 4 storm, still bringing catastrophic destruction to the island chain.

Even if Maria’s winds are weaker than Irma’s, the storm has the potential to be as, or more, destructive in certain areas thanks to Irma’s previous path.

“St. Croix, Culebra, Vieques and Puerto Rico may take a direct hit and end up with more substantial damage when compared to Irma,” said AccuWeather senior meteorologist Alex Sosnowski. “With Irma stripping much of the vegetation in the northern Leeward and Virgin Islands, there is a much greater risk of flash flooding and mudslides even if the eyewall of Maria passes by to the south.”

National Hurricane Center Hurricane Maria strengthened once again into a Category 5 storm Tuesday morning. Photo: National Hurricane Center

Maria already forged a path of destruction after pummeling Dominica, which was spared much of Irma’s wrath, Monday evening as a Category 4 storm.

“Initial reports are of widespread devastation,” Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said Tuesday. “So far we have lost all that money can buy and replace.”

Should Maria retain its strength, it would likely hit the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico as a Category 5 storm. The hurricane remained about 170 miles southeast of St. Croix, Virgin Islands, Tuesday morning. The storm would likely strike the islands as well as Puerto Rico sometime within the next 24 hours with “potentially catastrophic” winds and flooding, according to the National Weather Service.

The Virgin Islands temporarily suspended recovery and cleanup from Hurricane Irma in order to prepare for the potential impact of Maria. Those residents in St. Thomas and St. John were urged to evacuate homes that were severely damaged in Hurricane Irma for the safety of shelters, which would better protect them from torrential winds and rain.

“If you believe you’re going to stay in damaged buildings that have no walls and windows and shelter, through a hurricane, we’re asking you to get a high-colored marker and write your social security number on your body,” said Virgin Islands Gov. Kenneth Mapp. “Take this event seriously. You cannot stay in those facilities. You will not survive.”

RTX3GXV2 A man removes a branch in a flooded street after Hurricane Maria on Guadeloupe, Sep. 19, 2017. Photo: Reuters