Hurricane Jose veers away from Barbuda, sparing island hit by Irma

After being devastated by Hurricane Irma, the tiny Caribbean island of Barbuda braced for its second major hurricane in four days as Hurricane Jose barreled toward its direction.

What was left of Barbuda was spared from the worst of Hurricane Jose, as the Category 4 storm skirted just north of the island on Saturday.

The threat of another direct hit to Barbuda had been so dire that any of the 1,800 residents who hadn’t already fled before Irma were evacuated by a flotilla of ferries sent Friday from Antigua, the other major island in the nation of Antigua and Barbuda.

There was relief as the hurricane warning for Barbuda was downgraded to a tropical storm warning on Saturday morning and later Saturday when that storm warning was discontinued.

Jose was passing north of a string of already storm-damaged Caribbean islands Saturday afternoon, the National Hurricane Center said, whipping some of them with tropical storm-force winds and rain that could exacerbate flooding there.

Hurricane Irma hit Barbuda as a Category 5 hurricane on Wednesday, killing one person and damaging 95% of the island’s buildings, said Gaston Browne, the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda. He estimated the damage from Irma will cost $100 million to fix.

CNN drone footage from Barbuda on Friday showed nearly every house and building ripped open or torn apart. Trees were stripped or toppled. Windows, roofs and even walls were gone. Some buildings were empty, their contents blown away.

“Total destruction, honestly,” said one 45-year-old man, a Barbuda resident, after evacuating to Antigua. “It’s like someone threw an explosive.”

He told CNN the island “is like a shell” with widespread destruction.

“The whole island — very few houses that didn’t get really damaged. Very few houses liveable.”

CNN’s Leyla Santiago toured Barbuda on Friday and described “pure destruction.”

“It is desolate. People are overwhelmed,” she said. “The priority now is not so much to save what Irma left behind, (it’s) more so to save lives. They’re trying to get people out.”