With much of the Caribbean still reeling from the impact of Hurricane Irma, yet another major hurricane could be headed toward some of the worst-hit islands. Hurricane Maria intensified into a Category 3 storm Monday morning and could potentially get stronger as it makes its way toward the northeastern Caribbean Sea.

Maria could strengthen into a Category 4 storm when it makes its way to the Dominican Republic Thursday, according to the Weather Channel. A hurricane warning remained in effect for Hispaniola, the island on which the Dominican Republic and Haiti are located.

The Dominican Republic sustained heavy damage after Hurricane Irma slammed the island earlier in the month, leaving behind heavy flooding and destruction. More than 5,000 people were evacuated from the Dominican Republic, while flooding was reported to be up to a meter high in some places.

Meanwhile, the islands of Antigua and Barbuda could also be in the path of Hurricane Maria, a potentially catastrophic situation given the depth of destruction left on Barbuda by Hurricane Irma. Forecasts said Maria could bring rain of up to eight inches on the island, potentially triggering dangerous flash floods and mudslides.

“The damage is complete,” Barbuda’s ambassador to the United States Ronald Sanders said earlier this week. “For the first time in 300 years, there’s not a single living person on the island of Barbuda — a civilization that has existed on that island for over 300 years has not been extinguished.”

Evacuees from the island were sent to neighboring Antigua, where the damage was less severe. With such catastrophic devastation on Barbuda, some residents considered not returning to the island at all, NBC News reported. U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. Kenneth Map warned Saturday that residents of the islands should be prepared for a hit from Hurricane Maria.

“This is not a time to think about your house, a time to think about your earthly possessions,” said Mapp. “This is a time to think about securing your life, the lives of your children, the lives of your neighbors.”

The desolation left behind by Hurricane Irma could cause Maria to be more destructive in areas of the Caribbean, even if islands are spared a direct hit. Cleanup efforts would also likely be hindered by Maria’s path in the coming days.

“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.”

Hurricane Maria Hurricane Maria strengthened into a Category 3 storm Monday. Photo: National Hurricane Center