Hurricane Jose was barreling toward St. Martin, St. Maarten and St. Barts on Saturday, just a few days after Hurricane Irma had slammed the two Caribbean islands.
The Category 4 storm had weakened but remained powerful as it swirled toward the islands. Forecasters expected the hurricane to hit the islands with winds of up to 93 mph, along with torrential rains and large waves.
As of 2 p.m. AST, Jose had maximum sustained winds of 145 mph and was moving northwest at 14 mph. It was located about 95 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands.
A tropical storm watch was in effect for Barbuda and Anguilla. A hurricane watch was in effect for St. Maarten, St. Martin and St. Barts, but their governments have all changed it to a tropical storm warning.
Travel to and from St. Martin, the northern half of which is owned by France and the southern half by the Netherlands, has been halted until Jose passes.
French authorities said Saturday that some 1,105 workers have been deployed to St. Martin and St. Barts to help the islands’ recovery. By Saturday, damage estimates from Irma reached the $1.44 billion mark.
Jacques Witkowski, France’s director of public safety, said the international airport was not operational. The last airplane flew in to the battered Grand-Case de Saint Martin Airport on Friday. It carried emergency workers to help with reconstruction as well as specialists who aim to re-establish the island’s damaged water and electricity systems.
The Dutch government estimated 70 percent of houses on St. Maarten were badly damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Irma. That leaves many of the 40,000 residents reliant on public shelters as they brace for Hurricane Jose.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the situation remains “grim” on the island where widespread looting has broken out. Rutte said there are some 230 Dutch troops and police patrolling the island. About 200 more troops were expected to arrive in the coming days.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Katia made landfall in Mexico as a Category 1 storm late Friday but rapidly weakened over land into a tropical depression. The storm could still bring heavy rain over central and northern Veracruz, eastern Hidalgo and northern Puebla.
Powerful Hurricane Irma was continuing to barrel toward Florida where it was expected to make landfall Sunday morning in southwest Florida and Tampa. The storm continued to slam the north coast of Cuba and had maximum sustained winds of 125 mph.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.