Tropical Storm Otto Dumps More than 15 Inches of Rain — Mud Slides, Power Outages and Road Damage


Boats washed ashore in Chocolate Hole.

It wasn’t a hurricane, but Tropical Storm Otto dumped more than 15 inches of rain on St. John last week, shutting schools and government offices and causing land slides, power outages and roadway damage across the island.

Rain started lashing the territory on Tuesday, October 5, when 4.8 inches fell, according to Rafe Boulon, who records rain data at his North Shore home.
On Wednesday, October 6, an additional 6.92 inches of rain fell and it didn’t stop on Thursday, when Boulon recorded another 3.41 inches. The skies were still grey on Friday, October 8, and, as of press time, Boulon had recorded an additional .94 inches of rain with even more forecast for Friday night and Saturday morning.

The Mongoose Junction gut rushed with water.



The heavy downpours proved too much for many already water-logged areas of St. John, causing mud slides across the island. The worst of the damage was reported on Wednesday, October 6, when portions of Centerline Road were closed for much of the day.

A major land slide caused a power line to fall at the entrance to Upper Carolina, where traffic was turned around for several hours.
A major rock and mud slide at Saunder’s Gut on October 6 blocked the road, trapping residents on the other side. Neighbors pitched in to dig out the road early in the morning and a backhoe later made the road passable.

Several boats were thrown ashore in Chocolate Hole and Great Cruz Bay, where officials at the Westin Resort and Villas had their hands full. The resort’s tennis courts and swimming pool were inundated with water, mud and rocks. The roadway in front of the resort was almost completely washed away and boats broken off their moorings littered the beach.

A sea of turf at the Westin Resort’s tennis courts.

Damage was reported on the main road out to Fish Bay, but recent roadway work intended to slow the tide of storm water runoff held up well, according to residents in the area.

Several villas in Estate Virgin Grand reported water damage. The gut which runs underneath Mongoose Junction was rushing at full speed and the roadway in front of the shopping complex was seriously damaged from the deluge.

At least five additional mud slides were reported along Centerline Road and Department of Public Works crews were working around the clock to keep roadways passable.

Water damage to homes was also reported from Estate Calabash Boom to Chocolate Hole. A retaining wall collapsed at an Estate Carolina home, burying three cars under the debris in the driveway.

Downed power lines in Upper Carolina.

North Shore Road, which was recently paved, weathered the storm well, according to V.I. National Park Chief of Resource Management Rafe Boulon.
A few landslides were reported along the roadway and the road did buckle near Hawksnest Beach, according to Boulon.

The worst damage in the park was reported at Maho Bay beach, which seemed to disappear under the swell of runoff from the watershed. Only a few tree roots were holding a portion of the sand in place with the rest of the beach simply washed away.

“There is literally no beach,” said Boulon.

Boulon’s own North Shore home was nearly impossible to get to, as the access road to Windswept was completely washed out. The VINP official hoped to be able to get his vehicle out sometime this week.

Water rushed across North Shore Road onto Maho Bay Beach.

Eight families who live on the upper portion of Estate Bordeaux were reportedly trapped on the hill due to several major landslides, according to a resident who lives in the area.

Residents in that section of Estate Bordeaux lost power on Tuesday, October 5, and V.I. Water and Power Authority officials were working in the area on Friday, October 8. As of press time, however, the residents in that section of Estate Bordeaux were still without power.

Coral Bay lost power on Tuesday evening, October 5, for about 24 hours. The current was running by the night of October 6, as V.I. Water and Power Authority crews got the power lines back up and functioning.

Schools were closed early on Tuesday, October 5, and then remained shuttered for the rest of the week. With the Columbus Day holiday on Monday, October 11, students enjoyed almost a full week off from the classroom. Maintenance staff and faculty, however, were asked to report to their respective schools to aid in the clean up efforts.

Non-essential government employees were not required to report to work and many restaurants and bars kept their doors shuttered throughout the week.
The VITRAN bus service didn’t run Tuesday through Friday last week and Department of Public Works officials issued an advisory for residents to avoid coastal areas and guts impacted by storm water.

The heavy downpours came during a year which has already seen above-average rainfall. As of October 8, Boulon had already recorded 16.07 inches of rain for the month. The average rainfall for October is only 4.92 inches. For the year, Boulon has recorded 63.62 inches of rain already, with an average year on St. John seeing only 43.83 inches.

A “tail” at the southern tip of TS Otto was forecast to lash the island with several more inches of rain on Friday night, October 8, and then pick up speed and move away from the territory, for some much-needed relief from the rain.

Several boats broke off their moorings and were thrown ashore in Great Cruz Bay.

The road flooded at the entrance to the Marketplace.