With hurricane season starting tomorrow, the territory is ill prepared for any strong storm, to say nothing of another Irma.
Part of this failure is unavoidable: Given the devastation that remains from last September’s disasters, it is impossible to fully prepare.
Nevertheless, much more can be done to mitigate potential risks, and getting ready is a job for the entire community.
Currently, dangerous hazards abound. Debris, for example, is scattered across much of the territory, including the Coxheath dumpsite, a veritable arsenal of trash that could become dangerous projectiles in a strong wind.
Hundreds of buildings remain roofless and windowless, and many residents still live in compromised dwellings that don’t adequately shelter them from a light drizzle, let alone hurricane-force winds.
Shelters have not been fully repaired and fortified, and some ghuts contain trash that would block them in the event of a heavy rain, among many other issues.
Such problems — many of which are a direct result of Irma — won’t all be resolved even before the end of this hurricane season on Dec. 1. But that doesn’t mean the territory should sit back and wait for the next storm.
One of the most important preventive measures is cleaning up debris. Community collaborations — such as the ones on Saturday in Road Town and on Sunday in Cane Garden Bay — have been making remarkable progress, but much more needs to be done across the territory.
Meanwhile, building owners, including the government, should repair any damaged premises straightaway. And if they are unable to do so, they should clean and secure them so that they won’t create avoidable hazards during a storm.
Government also has a raft of other responsibilities to handle, including preparing the territory’s shelters; securing the Coxheath site; ensuring that communication systems won’t break down in the next storm as they did during Irma; and keeping the public apprised of the actual status of preparations, among many others.
Additionally, homes, businesses and public agencies alike should have a disaster plan in place, and, as officials have urged in recent days, all residents should stockpile emergency supplies, including enough non-perishable food and water to last at least three weeks.
Historically, most storms have come later in the season. But that may be changing: In recent days, Subtropical Storm Alberto has battered the coast of the United States, and forecasters are predicting more storms than usual this year even as climate change has thrown additional uncertainty into the mix.
For the VI, then, preparation is essential even if it seems like a monumental task. Irma made that much crystal clear.