Before Tropical Storm Dorian passed over the Virgin Islands last month, Tony Somerson was nervous looking at the scaffolding and incomplete construction projects
across the territory. If Dorian was a stronger storm, “this would have been a real problem,” he said. Mr.
Somerson thinks that the recovery process has not moved fast enough, and that it endangers residents. “It’s time to get things back in order,” he said. Scroll through the below slideshow to read other residents’ opinions on the recovery. (Photos: JOEY WALDINGER)
Sheena George was living in Barbados when Irma
hit. She had heard about the damage in the VI, but
when she moved to the territory in 2018, she was
shocked by the extent of the wreckage. Having never
experienced a major hurricane herself, she didn’t realise
the complexity of building a territory back from such
devastation, she said. “Not having an understanding of
how long insurance payouts would take, accessing materials from overseas, things that have an impact on the amount of time it takes to fully recover, I wouldn’t have known that,” she said. Despite these setbacks, she has
been impressed with the territory’s recovery, and thinks
that government did an excellent job at quickly
establishing physical locations for its services, she said.
With violence rising in South Africa, Melissa
Nelson and her husband decided to move back to
the VI so that they could raise their child in a safer
environment. They returned to the territory a month
after Irma, and for the first month after their arrival,
Ms. Nelson’s husband had to scoop water out of the
cistern so that they could bathe. She said her heart
was broken by the destruction, by the rows of palm
trees on Cane Garden Bay that had been mowed
down. But she finds it inspiring that two years after
the storm, people are still determined to rebuild.
“Seeing stuff like that gives you hope,” she said
While Mark Chapman was on vacation in Switzerland in 2017, Hurricane Irma struck the Virgin Islands.
Mr. Chapman’s son urged him not to come back, but Mr.
Chapman, who owns six dogs and has lived in the terri
tory for more than three decades, knew that was not an
option. After returning home, he was impressed by how
quickly the territory pulled itself together, given the magnitude of the storm. “It went from a fairly lawless place to pretty comfortable,” he said. Two years after the fact, Mr.
Chapman thinks that the territory still lacks some comforts — he finds the mail system frustrating — but that
some aspects of the infrastructure have been built back
stronger than they were before.
Originally from the Dominican Republic, Kendra
Nisbett moved to the VI three weeks after the storm
hit. Conditions in the territory were “horrible” when
she first arrived, but she stayed positive watching
government move to rebuild so quickly. The recovery
process moved faster than she thought it would,
though she thinks that certain issues, like the lack of
streetlights illuminated at night, need more attention, she said.
Hurricane Irma left Keino Phillips without a job,
but then gave him another one. Before the storm he
had been working for a charter company, but afterwards he got a job in a government-funded demolition crew, taking down buildings that were left
uninhabitable. He described the recovery process as a
group effort, with everyone pitching in where they
could. Still, there is much left to be done, he said.
Joy Solomon’s bedroom was destroyed by Hurricane
Irma. Many of her belongings blew out of her windows,
water leaked through her ceiling, and later mould
started to grow. For months she slept on the floor. The
mould started to affect her health, and she recently had
to move in with her daughter. Though Ms. Solomon
thinks the recovery has gone well for the most part, she
said many people haven’t received enough financial assistance to make needed repairs.
Damian Watson doesn’t like to relive the aftermath of Irma. “The recovery process was painful; you
had to be mentally strong,” he said. He thinks the
territory is recovering as fast as possible from such a
devastating storm, and that the process shouldn’t be
rushed, so that building regulations and other safeguards can be properly reviewed, he said.