St. John Weathers Tropical Storm Irene

JAWS was found washed ashore in Coral Bay after Tropical Storm Irene passed St. John.

Water and Power Authority crews were busy restoring power lines.

Branches and trees were downed and portions of Centerline Road were slightly washed out, but overall, St. John came through Tropical Storm Irene relatively unscathed.

An August 19 V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency press release predicted the storm would pass 100 miles south of St. Croix.

“We are urging everyone to be vigilant and to monitor the progress of this system as it moves across our region,” said VITEMA Director Elton Lewis.

As of Saturday afternoon, August 20, it appeared that Irene would indeed pass south of the territory, bringing some light rains and winds. By late Saturday night and early Sunday morning, August 21, however, it became apparent that Irene had jogged north a bit and was passing directly over the Virgin Islands.

The territory experienced tropical storm conditions, with sustained winds of 40 miles per hour and gusts to 67 miles per hour and a little more than 4 inches of rain reported on St. Thomas.

The storm’s disorganized eye passed right over St. Croix Sunday afternoon, and power, internet and cell phone service went in and out throughout the afternoon, night and into Monday, August 22.

A flash flood watch was in issued by the National Weather Service from Sunday morning to Monday afternoon, and the territory eventually came under a tropical storm warning and a flash flood warning. At noon on Sunday, the Coast Guard closed St. Croix ports to incoming and outgoing vessels, and all U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico ports were shut down at 6 p.m. the same day.

Storm shelters were opened at 3 p.m. Sunday on St. Croix, and at 6:30 p.m. Sunday on St. Thomas and St. John. Both the St. Croix and St. Thomas airport closed at 5 p.m. Sunday.

Governor John deJongh imposed a curfew in the territory from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. on St. Croix, and 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. on St. Thomas and St. John.

Trees and brush were found down, blocking parts of the roadway.


“As the winds and rains intensify, road conditions in the islands will deteriorate causing hazards for the general public,” said acting V.I. Police Department commissioner Raymond Hyndman. “It’s best that residents remain indoors for their safety and pay attention to the updates provided by VITEMA, as well as follow all instructions as it relates to shelters and the curfew.”

A press release issued by VITEMA in the early morning hours of August 21 dubbed Irene a “serious threat.”

The Office of the Governor, VITEMA and the National Weather Service urged citizens to quickly complete preparations for the protection of life and property.

“Despite the preparations that have been made, I must take a moment to encourage everyone to pay attention to the updates that are provided by VITEMA, my office and others regarding the impact of the storm on the territory,” the governor said in a press release. “The storm’s projections are constantly changing and it is important that we heed and respect the warnings so that we can effectively protect life and property. This is of great importance during the hurricane season.”

As Irene passed through the territory, the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs imposed a price freeze, ordering merchants to keep prices at existing levels on all items of food, general supplies and services.

By Monday morning, deJongh ordered government employees to report at 10 a.m., the University of the Virgin Islands announced it would operate on a normal schedule and both Innovative and the V.I. Water and Power Authority issued press releases stating they were working on fully restoring service throughout the islands.

Both airports reopened Monday at 7:30 a.m., and an inbound flight had already arrived in the territory by midday. As of press time, the U.S. Coast Guard was assessing marine ports and the channel between St. John and St. Thomas in preparation for resuming regular ferry service.

“As of 9:30, 10 a.m. this morning they were conducting their assessments to determine whether there were any obstructions, and I assume service will resume by early afternoon,” said Government House spokesperson Jean Greaux.
Government House reported that WAPA fared relatively well on St. John, and that there were no major problems on Love City roadways.

“The most significant damage was seen on St. Croix, which suffered the back end of the storm,” said Greaux. “It’s there that the greatest challenges lie with restoration of power and flooding, which is being addressed right now.”

In the wake of the storm, the V.I. Department of Health urged residents to take precautions regarding food safety, sanitation and hygiene and to make efforts to remove standing water, reducing mosquito breeding sites.

By 5 a.m. Monday, as Irene’s center moved across San Juan, the storm was upgraded to a category 1 hurricane, the first named hurricane of the season.

As of midday Monday, conditions were ideal for Irene to strengthen into a category 2, 3 or 4 hurricane as it slams into the Bahamas and then the U.S. southeast coast. Landfall near Miami on Thursday night, August 25, is likely.