Hurricane Jose Now An Extremely Dangerous Category 4

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MIAMI (AP) – Hurricane Jose has now become an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane, threatening Caribbean islands already devastated by Hurricane Irma.

Jose now has top sustained winds of 150 mph (240 kph) and as it moves toward the northern leeward islands at a speedy 18 mph.

A Tropical Storm Watch has been issued for St. Thomas and St. John.

The government of Antigua has issued a Tropical Storm Watch for the British Virgin Islands

The government of France has issued a Tropical Storm Warning for St. Martin and St. Barts.

The government of Sint Maarten has issued a Tropical Storm Warning as well.

Meteorology director Jeff Masters at Weather Underground says Hurricane Jose will definitely add insult to the injuries caused by Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean.

However, he says the islands that took a direct hit – namely Barbuda, St. Martin and Anguila – will mostly suffer tropical storm force winds and heavy rains.

That will hamper relief efforts so it’s a big deal, but he says it’s “nothing compared to what they already went through.”

The death toll from Hurricane Irma has increased to 20 with four more deaths reported in the British Virgin Islands. The other lives lost include nine on the French Caribbean islands of St. Martin and St. Barts, four in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and one each on the islands of Anguilla, Barbuda and the Dutch side of St. Martin.

Associated Press videos show the destruction Hurricane Irma brought to the Caribbean island of St. Martin.

Gnarled black branches of leafless trees, street after street now littered with piles of corrugated tin, plywood, wrought iron, battered cars and unidentifiable objects that were once parts of someone’s life.

Handfuls of people are stumbling through the debris. One reaches the property where her home has now disappeared and says “Oh my God … Where did you go?”

There’s little left of the Hotel Mercure – just its sign, painted on one of the walls that still stand amid the ruins. As some begin to clean up, others line up outside a hospital, where the first two syllables of an “EMERGENCY” sign lie on the ground.

Authorities on the Dutch territory of St. Maarten say it will take months before people can recover from Hurricane Irma. Prime Minister William Marlin told the Dutch military that the Caribbean island lost many, many homes; schools are destroyed; both government buildings are severely damaged; many people have lost their homes; hotels are so damaged that tourists won’t come; the electricity company lost its roof so generators aren’t working; nearly half the water tanks are gone; and all the gas stations are destroyed.

He also confirms that people have been looting. He calls it “a psychological thing that happens anywhere in the world following a major disaster like this. People become kind of hopeless and there is no communication.”

Meanwhile, the National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Irma weakened a bit more but remains a powerful threat to Florida with storm surges that could reach 10 feet in some places.

Irma’s winds dropped to 150 mph, still a Category 4 dangerous storm, as it moves between Cuba and the Bahamas over warmer than normal waters that can intensify tropical storms. Irma’s core should hit Florida early Sunday morning, but its tropical force storm winds can arrive as early as Saturday morning.

(Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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