SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- A strengthening Hurricane Maria is swirling toward the eastern Caribbean, with forecasters warning it probably will be a major storm by the time it passes through the already battered Leeward Islands late Monday.

Maria grew into a hurricane Sunday, and forecasters say it is expected to become much stronger over the next 48 hours following a path that will take it near many of the islands wrecked by Hurricane Irma and on to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Forecasters warn the storm could become a Category 4 Hurricane in the days ahead.