A worker uses a pump last Thursday afternoon to clean up oil that officials said overflowed from a containment area near the Pockwood Pond power plant as a result of the flooding last week. (Photo: RUSHTON SKINNER)

The first week of the Atlantic Hurricane Season brought heavy rains that caused landslides, power outages and flooding across much of the territory.

On June 5-6, some 9.5 inches fell in Brewers Bay, while Road Town saw nearly five inches and Chalwell had to bear 7.9, according to the Department of Disaster Management.


The Department of Disaster Management’s rain gauges measured as much as 9.5 inches of rain (in Brewers Bay, Tortola) and as little as 2.5 inches (on Norman Island) on Wednesday and Thursday of last week. Road Town saw 4.8 inches, while Chalwell had to bear 7.9 inches, according to DDM. (Graph: DDM)


School and office closures announced early Thursday morning — followed shortly by government’s decision to limit itself to “essential services” — reduced the pace of life in the Virgin Islands to a crawl as heavy showers continued.

Despite the widespread flooding, officials said Road Town fared better than it did during the heavy rains of last month. However, other areas were harder hit, including Cane Garden Bay and Pockwood Pond, where the road was temporarily blocked.

Electricity outages were widespread, according to BVI Electricity Corporation General Manager Dr. Neil Smith.

“There were outages throughout the entire territory (East End included),” Dr. Smith told the Beacon in a Monday message. “The cause of these outages ranged from lighting strikes to landslides that compromised power lines.”

Pockwood Pond

In Pockwood Pond, heavy flooding filled the road and parking lots, and a video circulating on social media Thursday morning showed brown water reaching a jeep’s upper fender as it drove through the area.

The extent of last week’s rain damage to the Pockwood Pond dumpsite can be seen from far away. At the uppermost tree line (above), areas of darker earth slope down in places like the shadow of a waterfall, a sign of where the water cascaded. (Photo: RUSHTON SKINNER)

The rains also caused parts of the landfill to loosen and flow down the mountainside. About 10 streams of mud slid into the dump from above, leading to at least a dozen more trash-slides cascading from the terraced switchback road used to summit the refuse heap.

The largest of the trash streams eroded from the terraced roadway that leads up to the dump. (Photo: RUSHTON SKINNER)

“Our road network was damaged, and a number of debris blocked the road network,” Department of Waste Management Director Marcus Solomon told the Beacon on Monday. “We are presently doing remedial road works, and as such we are unable to landfill garbage at this time. … At the moment, the stockpile garbage is at a moderate-to-urgent need of being transported to be landfill.”

Mr. Solomon said he was hoping that landfilling would resume yesterday, weather dependent.

He added that the building that houses the incinerator was undamaged.

Oil overflow

Adjacent to the landfill last Thursday afternoon, BVIEC employees were at work on the side of the road in front of the power plant.

A worker with knee-high rubber boots held a pump to an area where black oil bubbled up and mixed with water and mud.

Dr. Smith, the BVIEC general manager, said this week that the oil was waste oil that had been used inside the multiple generators that run continuously to power the territory.

“During last week, the excessive flooding caused some of the containment areas to overflow, spilling oil on and outside the compound,” Dr. Smith said in a Monday email. “It is worth noting that the Pockwood Pond facility grounds flooded due to water drains being blocked with mud that accumulated from outside the facility. This is an issue that we will need to resolve, and [it depends] on cooperation from the businesses in the area.”

A construction vehicle works to clear a road damaged by the June 5-6 rains during the first week of the Atlantic Hurricane Season. (Photo: RUSHTON SKINNER)

Also on Thursday, government officials drove around the territory to assess the damage.

In a video posted to Facebook at 10:36 a.m., Communications and Works Minister Kye Rymer stood on the Paul Wattley Road to update residents on the damage and his ministry’s response plans.

“We have been in dialogue with the district representatives. We have heard from residents,” Mr. Rymer said. “You know, we have seen where we had some retaining walls that slipped. We had flooding, quite a lot of rain.”

In an afternoon update broadcast on Facebook, acting Premier Lorna Smith described her experience driving around Tortola after the rains.

“My first visit was to [Elmore Stoutt High School], and it seems to me that there was no damage as in the past, thankfully,” Ms. Smith said. “And then I, of course, visited the businesses on Flemming Street, and there seems to have been a little bit of water, but not the kind of damage that they sustained about a month ago.”

According to Ms. Smith, Port Purcell’s ghut was overwhelmed, but the situation was brought under control by the time she arrived shortly before 10 a.m.

From there, the acting premier noted obstructions on Joes Hill, McNamara, and Cane Garden Bay, among other areas she visited.

“The asphalt is up, there is some rock fall — rocks are all over the place,” Ms. Smith said. “And the beautiful, pristine Cane Garden Bay looks like a mud pool.”

School closures

Public schools closed last Thursday on the advice of DDM, acting Chief Education Officer Orlandette Crabbe said in a letter to parents.

“This decision is to ensure the safety of our students and staff as heavy rainfall due to thunderstorms are expected to impact the territory throughout the day,” the letter stated. “Students and teachers are asked to remain at home.”

Instead of an indoor holiday for students, however, learning continued via “online platforms,” Ms. Crabbe added.

‘Essential services’ only

Also following the DDM’s lead, government reduced its capacity to “essential services,” according to a bulletin issued at 9:25 a.m. last Thursday.

As the climate phenomenon El Niño weakens and gives way to La Niña, experts say the Caribbean should expect a highly active hurricane season this year.

Public Works Department Director Jeremy Hodge acknowledged the recent wet weather alongside Mr. Rymer last Thursday.

“We have been doing our preparations for the Atlantic Hurricane Season,” Mr. Hodge said. “It would seem as though that began in May [as] opposed to June.”