- Written by FREEMAN ROGERS
- Published: 21 September 2017
The Virgin Islands was spared the brunt of Hurricane Maria, a Category Five storm that brushed the territory on Wednesday morning as it devastated St. Croix and headed for a catastrophic direct hit on Puerto Rico.
“Our initial rapid assessment has shown that the greatest impact to the territory was from storm surge,” said Governor Gus Jaspert. “There is also pooling of water and minimal flooding.”
Though the damage was relatively minor, government extended a curfew all day Wednesday as the after-effects of the storm lingered and a hurricane warning continued.
Though a few vehicles were on the road, police stopped them at checkpoints to ask drivers if they had a pass from the Department of Disaster Management.
“We were hoping to issue the all-clear earlier today,” Mr. Jaspert said Wednesday afternoon. “However, as we are still under hurricane warning this has not been possible. We also have to allow for additional time for roads to be cleared satisfactorily from Pockwood Pond to the West End, Cappoons Bay, Carrot Bay, Brewers Bay and other western coastal shores and for conditions over the hills to be made more conducive for traffic to flow.”
Rockfalls partially blocked roads in West End, and flooding occurred in areas including Pasea Estate and Johnsons Ghut, where the road still ran with water on Wednesday afternoon. But the heavy flooding that many had feared would result from Maria’s rains didn’t materialise.
Across the territory, residents were relieved that the storm didn’t hit harder at a time when the Virgin Islands is still reeling from Hurricane Irma.
“We have to thank God because you have no life lost here,” said Roy Campbell, a Jamaican fashion designer who has been staying in the Multi-purpose Sports Complex shelter because Hurricane Irma ripped the roof off his Huntums Ghut apartment. “We’re here trying to pick up the pieces and see where we can do anything to build up the country.”
He added that he hadn’t expected the storm be catastrophic.
“I was never that worried because I think we get the worst of it from Irma,” he said. “I know that He not going to give us more than we can bear. So I know that it won’t be that bad.”
Another shelter occupant, Christine Glover-Walton, had a similar attitude.
“I heard that it was going to go southeast, so it was not going to have the direct impact,” she said. “If it hit us, what could we do?”
Nearby islands were not as lucky as the VI.
In the United States VI, St. Croix was devastated after a near-direct hit.
“I’d been through a couple category ones, category twos and tropical storms since I’ve been here, but nothing like this,” said Emily Weston, a businesswoman who has lived on the island for 13 years.
As she and her boyfriend took refuge under a piece of plywood, the noise from the wind was ear-splitting, she said.
“I kept hearing planes landing. It sounded like planes were constantly landing,” she said, explaining that she lives near the island’s airport. “It was a pretty deep noise for hours. I’m very thankful to be on the other side of it now.”
Though Ms. Weston’s house was spared, many other residents lost windows and roofs. She described a scene very similar to this territory’s Irma devastation: Vegetation was stripped of leaves, large trees were uprooted, telephone poles were down, and debris littered the roadways.
St. Thomas, like this territory, was spared the brunt of Maria’s force, but it saw heavy rainfall and flooding that represented a significant setback as the island struggles to recover from Irma.
All of PR loses power
Puerto Rico was also devastated by the storm, whose centre came ashore on the island’s southeast corner, stripping away roofs, shattering windows, wreaking havoc in the capital of San Juan, and taking at least one life.
Governor Ricardo Rossello told CNN that the electricity likely won’t be restored for months, which means that this territory and all its closest neighbours will be without power for the foreseeable future.
“We still don’t have a lot of information,” Mr. Rosello said. “We’re virtually disconnected in terms of communications with the southeast part of the island.”
Meanwhile, Maria’s death toll has climbed to 14 in Dominica, which the storm struck before arriving here.
Maria — which has dropped to a Category Two but is expected to grow again — is now headed toward the Dominican Republic, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southern Bahamas.