Following the passage of Tropical Storm Philippe, business owners and other residents were out cleaning up yesterday morning after flash flooding hit Road Town and other areas the previous night. Up to nine inches of rain fell in some areas, according to the Department of Disaster Management. (Photo: RUSHTON SKINNER)

Tropical Storm Philippe cut a chaotic and unpredictable path across the Caribbean this week, finally parking over the Virgin Islands most of Tuesday night and causing flash flooding throughout the territory as it dumped up to nine inches of rain in some areas.

Though Governor John Rankin gave the “all clear” yesterday at 1 p.m. and confirmed there were no storm-related injuries reported at that point, the torrential downpour left some residents bailing out homes and businesses.

The government announced yesterday morning that schools and government offices would be closed for the day, and encouraged residents to avoid any unnecessary travel.

The BVI Ports Authority also closed all vessel traffic to ports unless granted authority by the managing director. It also suspended cargo operations and closed ferry terminals.

Water flooded the drainageway in Johnsons Ghut during the passage of Tropical Storm Philippe. (Photo: FREEMAN ROGERS)

Similarly, the BVI Airports Authority shut down the territory’s airports yesterday until Managing Director Kurt Menal gave the “all clear” for air traffic services to resume at 1:45 p.m.

The Antigua and Barbuda Weather Service said an official flash flood warning was to remain in effect until 5 p.m.

“Tropical Storm Philippe is gradually moving away from the British Virgin Islands,” the agency noted at 2:30 p.m. “However, flood threat remains high due to the possibility of additional rainbands moving over the islands this afternoon.”

Flash flooding

Meanwhile, community members began circulating photos and videos of the overnight damage, with water pouring into homes, debris clogging docks, and roadways turning into rivers.

Commercial Dive Services Owner Chris Juredin said he and his crew were out all night salvaging a boat that had run aground, and they saw just how rough the weather got around Marina Cay.

“[There was] a lot of rain,” he said. “It was hard to work, and the rain was gusting. It was really going for it around 2 this morning. It was probably around 35 knots, 40 knots.”

As of yesterday afternoon, the Department of Disaster Management’s WeatherStem Station had recorded more than six inches of rainfall within 24 hours, surpassing the initially projected threeto-four inches.

The weather station in Brewers Bay recorded nine inches of rainfall, the East End fire station recorded 7.5, and Road Town reported 6.1 as of 6 a.m. yesterday. Most of the rain had passed by then, but light showers continued throughout the day.

By yesterday morning, heavy equipment operators were clearing roads of hazards brought by the storm, and the National Emergency Operations Centre was conducting damage assessments.

A backhoe clears the road in Johnsons Ghut yesterday afternoon after the passage of Tropical Storm Philippe. (Photo: FREEMAN ROGERS)

Though some videos circulating on social media showed flooding on the sister islands, DDM Information and Education Manager Chrystall Kanyuck-Abel said the department hadn’t yet received reports of any major damage from the storm.

‘All over the place’

DDM Director Jasen Penn told the Beacon that experts, primarily from the Antigua and Barbuda Meteorological Service, had been tracking the storm all the way from the mid-Atlantic.

“Initial projections had the system going out to sea,” he said. “As it got closer, it stalled and began to move erratically. It made a southwest turn. It made a northwest turn. It was all over the place.”

Because the storm stayed in place for so long, the VI saw significant flash flooding.

Dale Clark, of the diving tour boat BVI Aggressor, noted high winds and rains in the dead of night, but he didn’t see the damage until the morning after.

“I was up in the hills last night. Coming down this morning, there were rocks and broken trees,” he said. “There was flooding around the house.”

Fillmore Francis weathered the storm in his boat docked at Village Cay.

“It wasn’t that bad: just lots of rain. The boat isn’t that old — it had a little leak here and there, but otherwise, I was safe,” he said. “One thing, I had electricity all night and I had internet all night.”

He added that there was likely more wind and rain in the higher elevations than on lower land.

Mr. Penn said DDM staff members have seen the videos of the damage and are still conducting assessments.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Hurricane Center said around 9 a.m. yesterday that the storm is forecast to erratically move north of the VI today and Friday before then approaching Bermuda.


Before the storm hit the VI, it made landfall in Antigua and Barbuda, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Strong rains caused school and government closures there, as well as in St. Martin, St. Barths and Guadeloupe.

Though reports show little major damage to countries in the region, Guadeloupe did experience widespread power outages.

Tuesday evening, the centre of the storm was situated about 85 miles north of St. Thomas, and the United States VI felt similar impacts as the VI. The territory closed schools but required essential employees to report to campuses to assess the damage.

The National Weather Service San Juan also showed strong thunderstorms over the waters between Puerto Rico and the USVI, issuing special marine warnings.

Projections put Bermuda in the potential path of the storm as it continues northward.

Debris lines the roads and sidewalks of Road Town in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Phillipe yesterday. Drainage infrastructure appears to have effectively directed flooding, though some channels struggled to manage sedimentary runoff. (Photo: RUSHTON SKINNER)

Before the worst of the storm hit Tuesday evening, acting Premier Lorna Smith urged residents to remain vigilant in their storm preparations.

“To those of you who have already reviewed your emergency plans and assembled your supplies, I applaud you,” she said. “I also extend a special thank you to those who have taken steps to assist their neighbours and villages with clearing waste or other preparedness measures. You set an example we should all strive to follow.”

She added, “Indeed, we are in that period of the Atlantic Hurricane Season when storms are most likely to form, so we all need to do our part to stay informed and be ready.”

Zarrin Tasnim Ahmed contributed to this report.