V.I. Government Issues Warnings as Hurricane Dean Passes to South

Although Hurricane Dean was expected to pass south of the Virgin Islands on its way to Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, several government agencies and local businesses issued warnings regarding the storm.

Governor John deJongh, who spoke at a Friday afternoon, August 17, press conference, urged Virgin Islanders to take the opportunity to prepare for the upcoming peak of hurricane season.

“The arrival of Hurricane Dean in the eastern Caribbean is a reminder to all of us that we are fast approaching the peak of the 2007 hurricane season,” said deJongh in a written statement. “I want to use this opportunity to speak about the need for each and every one of us to be prepared for any natural disaster. I urge every one of us to take the necessary precautions, to plan how to best safeguard your homes and families should a hurricane or another disaster threaten our islands.”

The Department of Health issued a fact sheet aimed at helping residents prepare a disaster supply kit in the event the islands are threatened by a tropical storm or hurricane. A kit should include items such as water, food, first aid supplies and medications, clothing and bedding, tools and emergency supplies and important family documents, according to the release.

The DOH recommends stocking up with at least one gallon of water per person per day; ready to eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables; staples, such as salt, sugar and pepper; powdered milk and canned juices; and a non-electric can opener and/or utility knife.

The DOH also recommends preparing for a storm by gathering several tools and emergency supplies, including cash, a battery-operated radio and flashlight with extra batteries, candles and matches and a fire extinguisher.

The Department of Planning and Natural Resources issued a public advisory recommending that all contractors, developers and home builders immediately implement additional erosion and sediment control measures in anticipation of the inclement weather the territory expected over the weekend.

Boaters should not remain on-board their vessels during a hurricane, according to the DPNR release. Boaters should contact VITEMA regarding locations of land-based shelters should a storm threaten the territory.

Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands were under a tropical storm warning on Friday, August 17, meaning storm conditions were expected to begin around noon on Friday and continue through the weekend, according to an advisory issued by the National Weather Service in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Small boats were advised to remain in port, as strong, gusty winds and high surf were expected to affect coastal areas.

“Showers and thunderstorms associated with the northwestern fringes of Hurricane Dean should begin after noon today (Friday) through tonight over the U.S. Virgin Islands,” according to the advisory. “Localized heavy rainfall is possible as the center of Dean passes south of the local islands on its forecast track tonight and tomorrow. Rainfall totals of one to two inches are possible across the area from late tonight with locally higher amounts over isolated areas.”

Flash floods were possible, according to the advisory. Weather conditions in the territory were expected to improve early Sunday.

Virgin Islands residents kept a close eye on Hurricane Dean earlier in the week when, as a tropical storm just off the coast of Africa, its projected path took it straight through the territory. As Dean intensified and became a hurricane mid-week, its projected path was shifted to the south.

Dean struck the islands of Martinique and Saint Lucia on Friday as a Category 2 hurricane. It was expected to intensify to a Category 4 before making landfall in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands on Sunday night.