As Hurricane Irma’s worst winds, rains and tide surges departed the reef-ringed beaches of Antigua and Barbuda on Wednesday, Prime Minister Gaston Browne proudly proclaimed that no other nation in the Caribbean would have been as prepared as it was.
There was only one problem with Browne’s statement, which he acknowledged later and that was Barbuda was left nearly inhabitable and things may get even worse, as Hurricane Jose has strengthened and appears headed for the two islands that Irma just devastated.
Weather forecasters have predicted that Jose will become a major hurricane as soon as Friday.
On Thursday, reeling from the destruction left behind by Irma, Antigua and Barbuda issued hurricane watches as of Thursday morning.
Barbuda is the smaller of the two and sustained damage to approximately 95% of the properties on the island, Browne told media after he flew over the island.
Aerial footage of the island shows that homes had roofs ripped off and walls blown down. Those who lived through the storm called it a night of terror.
As Irma churns on towards more land masses, the population of the eastern Caribbean begin coming to grips with the scope of devastation and worry about what another fierce storm could bring as soon as this weekend.
Browne said parts of Barbuda, which is 62-square miles, were underwater. Most of the 1,300 residents of the island live in Codrington.
As the sun came up and people started to take stock in what was lost, confusion, worsening fear and desperation set in over another hurricane that appears to be heading for the island.
Jose is expected to increase in strength the next 48 hours. It currently has winds in excess of 90 mph.
Further west from Barbuda, Irma skirted past Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands where close to 1 million people were left without electricity late Wednesday.
The next targets for Irma are the Turks and Caicos, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. Mass evacuations have also started for the Bahamas and parts of southern Florida including the Keys.
The United Nations announced that Irma could affect up to 37 million people. Most of them are on the U.S. mainland, but residents of the tiny Eastern Caribbean islands hit first by the storm and likely the hardest, have little time to prepare for another.
As much as 60% of the residents of Barbuda have been left homeless by Irma and the Prime Minister vowed to evacuate the entire population to Antigua prior to Jose’s arriving.