Just two weeks after Hurricane Irma threatened the islands of the Caribbean, Puerto Rico became the latest place to be threatened by a hurricane. Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean. ABC News reports that there are evacuation orders issued for Parts of Puerto Rico.

This time, it's Hurricane Maria that's bearing down on the island, and its rapid growth has the American commonwealth bracing itself for a potential disaster. Puerto Rico escaped from Irma with massive power outages but a relatively stable situation otherwise.

However, officials aren't confident that the island will be that fortunate a second time.

The storm is expected to cut through Puerto Rico on Wednesday, but conditions could deteriorate as soon as Tuesday evening. Governor Ricardo Rossello has already ordered the evacuation of four zones in flood-prone areas and warned that Maria could bring 12 to 18 inches of rain in some areas.

The governor has also requested that the United States federal government declare a state of emergency in Puerto Rico in advance of the storm, as was done for Florida in advance of Hurricane Irma. If the request is approved, the commonwealth would immediately become eligible for federal assistance.

How strong is Hurricane Maria?

In terms of strength and size, this hurricane doesn't pack anywhere near the punch that Irma had at its strongest point. However, Hurricane Maria is still a powerful hurricane, and it has grown rapidly as it has neared Puerto Rico. Maria was initially projected to be a weak Category 3 storm when it hit the Caribbean island and weaken back into a Category 2 hurricane when it passed through.

But it has instead kept growing and is now projected to be a Category 4 hurricane, the likes of which have not touched the commonwealth since 1928.

That possibility is what scares the island's leaders the most, given that a slight graze with Irma was enough to knock out power for a million people across the island. If Puerto Rico absorbs a direct hit from Maria, it could take weeks or even months for it to recover.

How Hurricane Maria affects the United States

According to the European model, which has served as the most accurate hurricane forecast in 2017, Hurricane Maria is not expected to make landfall on the mainland of the United States. However, that doesn't mean that the U.S. won't see any impact from the storm. Few people know it, but Puerto Rico is actually part of the United States and its citizens are natural-born American citizens.

As such, if Puerto Rico absorbs severe damage from Hurricane Maria, president Donald Trump would likely be forced to declare yet another federal emergency situation. This would direct resources toward helping the island recover from the massive storm. That could leave the country scrambling to figure out both its budget and its future projects, such as infrastructure in the United States.