A safari bus passes an open storm drain in Cane Garden Bay. The territory is continuing to clean up and repair roads in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Philippe. (Photo: DANA KAMPA)

Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley assured the community in his first press conference since Tropical Storm Philippe hit the islands last week that repairs are well under way.

The storm poured rain from nightfall to the early hours of Oct. 4, causing flash flooding in low-lying areas.

The Department of Disaster Management reported that Anegada saw the highest levels, with 12 inches of rain, while Brewers Bay got 10.5 inches, Cane Garden Bay got 10.9 inches, Hannahs Estate got 10.2 inches, and the rest of the territory saw at least six inches of rain.

Though the storm was more noted for the rainfall than wind speeds, Balsam Ghut got gusts up to 60 miles per hour, according to DDM.

Philippe continued on toward Bermuda, which saw a tropical storm warning but did not suffer major damage.

Drainage ‘overwhelmed’

Here, many residents had to sweep out water from homes and businesses, but the storm did not cause extensive structural damage.

“We can all agree that this was a considerable volume of rainfall,” Dr. Wheatley said during the Oct. 6 press conference. “It was a lot more than was initially forecast, and we can all appreciate that such a high volume of sustained rainfall over such a lengthy period of time would no doubt put significant pressure on our infrastructure and our resources, which it did.”

The deluge meant drainage systems were “simply overwhelmed,” Dr. Wheatley said he was told by technical officers.

Dr. Wheatley noted that on Tortola, areas that were most affected included Road Town, Huntums Ghut, Pasea, Sea Cows Bay, and West End.

Roads undermined

Already-crumbling roads also took a hit in some areas as the storm strewed debris across streets and undermined coastal areas. Windy Hill, Carrot Bay and Brewers Bay saw the worst of those effects, the premier said.

Communications and Works Minister Kye Rymer said the government was aware of some road undermining before the storm, but the flooding revealed some new areas of concern that need to be addressed.

The premier thanked the crews that quickly responded to calls for assistance, including workers who addressed power outages and road blockages.

“I must also commend the community spirit that we saw where residents came out to lend a hand with the cleanup in the capital and other areas,” he said.

Mr. Rymer also thanked the financial secretary for his swift action to mobilise resources to aid in the cleanup.

High school flood

Some schools in the territory saw significant impacts, including Elmore Stoutt High School. Storm water flooded the first floor of the newest ESHS building, and community members pitched in with the subsequent cleanup.

Dr. Wheatley said flooding in the area was worse than it should have been because a tree fell and blocked the nearby ghut.

Asked if the drainage system around the school would potentially need to be redesigned considering storms here often come with stronger winds that can blow debris into the ghuts, Mr. Rymer said the main ghut is quite large but always has the potential to be blocked.

“We just have to make sure that we maintain [the ghuts],” he said. “Most of all, we pray and make sure that things go well with these drains. But we will continue to maintain them and make sure they are clean, especially for torrential weather.”

One of the last schools to reopen was Ivan Dawson Primary, which delayed in-person classes until Oct. 9 of this week due to flooding.

Sister islands

Asked for more detail about how the sister islands fared and what repairs are necessary, Public Works Department Director Jeremy Hodge said their infrastructure appears to have avoided major damage.

He noted, though, that some of the sister islands’ roads were affected, with the east end road on Jost Van Dyke getting washed out. He added that some mountain roads will also need attention.

“With regards to Anegada, fortunately for them it is very flat,” Mr. Hodge said, adding that there was minimal pooling. “Before the Lobster Fest, we have to do some grading to make sure the roads are flawless for that event.”

Mr. Rymer said that minimal effects were reported on Virgin Gorda.

Climate change

Dr. Wheatley also renewed his calls for large countries that contribute the most to carbon emissions to support smaller countries that are most susceptible to the effects of climate change.

“That is why we have championed a multi-dimensional vulnerability index that would make climate financing available to small island developing states such as ours, who faced the brunt of climatic disasters,” he said. “However, we will do all we can within our resources to respond in the face of extreme weather events.”