Virgin Islanders Breathe Sigh of Relief as Hurricane Season Comes To Close

Virgin Islands residents can now rest easy knowing the territory has been spared after yet another eventful hurricane season.

With the first tropical storm forming on May 9 — nearly a month before the official June 1 start of hurricane season — and a predicted 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three intense hurricanes, Virgin Islanders hoped for the best and prepared for the worst. The V.I. Territorial Emergency Management

Agency worked to coordinate government agencies and educate the public throughout the 2007 season.

“The first thing for VITEMA is to make sure we coordinate, educate and communicate to the public all the preparation that has to be done,” said VITEMA St. John Deputy Director Alvis Christian. “We also get together and make sure government agencies, non-profit organizations and local businesses have a plan and can deal with the mitigation of any disaster. Our first step, as always, is to get the Emergency Service Coordinators together and make sure all the plans are up to date and ready to be activated in any emergency.”

Increase in Activity Predicted
The Colorado State University (CSU) Department of Atmospheric Science’s predictions, compiled by Professor Emeritus of Atmospheric Science William Gray and research associates Philip Klotzbach and William Thorson, changed  in April, calling for an increase in hurricane activity with 17 named storms, nine hurricanes and five intense hurricanes.

The predictions for the number of named storms, which CSU updated in May, August, September and October, hovered between 15 and 17 throughout October 2, when the final update was released. During these months, VITEMA was busy providing information through whatever means possible, including television commercials and a hurricane preparedness fair at the Frank Powell Park in September — the height of hurricane season.

“We tried to disseminate brochures and pamphlets to various areas around St. John like the banks and post office, so people who readily visit those areas are able to get the information,” said Christian.

Other Emergencies Still Possible
The final tally for the official 2007 hurricane season came to 14 named storms, six hurricanes and two intense hurricanes — including Dean, which was on a crash course toward the Virgin Islands before shifting south and passing over St. Lucia and Martinique. Dean then intensified and struck the south side of Jamaica, and grew to a Category 5 hurricane before making landfall on the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula on August 21. Total damage caused by Dean is estimated at $4 billion, according to CSU’s 2007 Atlantic hurricane season summary.

Although the V.I. escaped yet another hurricane season unscathed, VITEMA is still working hard to be prepared for any type of emergency, explained Christian.

“We are truly blessed, but at the same time, we at VITEMA have to be ready because there are numerous other emergencies that could occur like a tsunami, earthquake or a terrorist attack,” he said. “Additionally, just because hurricane season ends November 30, that doesn’t mean a hurricane can’t strike in December. We always have to be on the alert for any major disaster which could happen at any time.”

For more information on disaster preparedness, contact the VITEMA St. John office at 776-6444.