A woman and a child rest on cots while waiting at Humacao Arena for the impact of Maria, a Category 4 hurricane that threatened to hit the eastern region of the island. Carlos Giusti/AP
"Very high winds are just tearing trees apart," Miguel Santiago with member station WRTU in San Juan reported Wednesday morning. "Most of the island is without power ... or water."
As the punishing winds moved over the island, doors were ripped off hinges, roofs went airborne and widespread flooding was reported in the capital city of San Juan, says The Associated Press.
Puerto Rico had long been spared from a direct hit by a hurricane; the last Category 4 storm to make landfall on the island was in 1932, reports the AP. Most recently, Puerto Rico avoided the worst of Irma, which went on to strike Florida.
In the days before Maria hit the island, Puerto Ricans were urged to heed hurricane warnings and evacuation orders.
"We expect severe devastation," Gov. Ricardo Rosselló told NPR on Tuesday. "We have about 500 shelters. People have been trickling into those shelters. But really, we have some weak infrastructure in terms of some of the homes that we have in Puerto Rico."
By late Tuesday, more than 4,000 people on the island had gone to shelters to wait out Maria, the governor tweeted.
"One of the shelters in San Juan had to relocate refugees to the hallways because of the roof, it was shaking due to the winds," Santiago said.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday offered his support via Twitter: "Puerto Rico being hit hard by new monster Hurricane. Be careful, our hearts are with you- will be there to help!"
The storm also blew over the tiny eastern Caribbean island of Dominica late Monday. An adviser to Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit says the storm killed at least seven people there, according to the AP.
Skerrit had been active on social media, posting multiple times about the storm's effects. Monday night he wrote, "My roof is gone. I am at the complete mercy of the hurricane. House is flooding." He later said he had been rescued.
His last Facebook post was made in the early hours of Tuesday, since then — silence. "Initial reports are of widespread devastation. So far we have lost all what money can buy and replace," Skerrit wrote just after midnight Tuesday. "My focus now is in rescuing the trapped and securing medical assistance for the injured."
"We will need help, my friend, we will need help of all kinds."
Elsewhere in the Caribbean, two people were killed on the island of Guadeloupe, the AP reports. Two people aboard a boat were reported missing off La Desirade island, just east of Guadeloupe, officials told the news agency.