Reeling from the devastation Irma wrought just days ago, a series of islands in the Caribbean are now preparing for their second major hurricane this week as Jose is forecast to side-swipe the area before curling northward into the open Atlantic ocean.
As of 2 p.m. ET Friday, the Category 4 storm was forecast to take a route that would keep its eye wall just north of the group of islands and then begin its curve north, sparing Puerto Rico and the British Virgin Islands from its worst.
But that hardly means there’s no reason for concern.
Jose’s sustained winds were recorded at 150 mph, marking the first time there has ever been two active storms with winds over that threshold in the Atlantic at the same time. And the storm is forecasted to pass close enough to hit the already-battered island of Barbuda, part of a dual-island nation with Antigua, with its strongest winds.
One of the islands hit hardest by Irma, roughly 90 percent of buildings on Barbuda were reported damaged. Around half of its 1,800 residents were left homeless, and it’s prime minister declared the island “barely habitable.”
The hit was so direct, Irma so big, and Barbuda so small — at around 62 square miles — that the island fit completely in Irma’s eye.
On Friday, officials were racing to get those still on Barbuda evacuated to Anguilla. The prime minister told the BBC, “The objective this morning is to ensure we get every single resident off Barbuda. We cannot afford a situation in which Barbuda is hit by yet another hurricane in these kind of conditions.”
While another hit of this magnitude on Barbuda is unfathomable, it’s unfolding in the Atlantic.
But Barbuda isn’t alone. Other islands still cleaning up from Irma’s direct hit that could be strongly affected by Jose are the islands of St. Martin and Saint Barthelemy where high winds and waves wreaked havoc and destruction.
One official told the New York Times that 95 percent of the island of Saint Martin was destroyed and, according to the Washington Point, the island is still without power, water, or fuel, making it especially vulnerable to more damage from another storm.
Similar conditions were reported on Saint Barthelemy (also known as St. Bart’s) where Eric Rayapin, a reporter for the Guadeloupe 1ère network, said the scene was a “spectacle of desolation,” and that, “Some [residents] have lost their houses, the cars have been flipped over in the middle of the street, and all vegetation has been destroyed.”
Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Saint Maarten/Saint Martin, and St. Barthelemy were all under Tropical Storm Warnings and Hurricane Watches as of Friday afternoon but will likely be elevated as Jose approaches.