Hurricane Irma - the aftermath
To all the friends of Great Expectations:
Sept 23 (Sunday) update: Today more progress was made at Great Expectations. Dennis Powell, our fabulous landscaper and his crew started the process of removing the debris (not only our trees and plants that were damaged by the hurricane but also our neighbor's bushes which ended up on our property!). Boy, oh boy, do we have compost!
Sept 22 update: Great Expectations has survived both Irma and Maria well, with only minor damage due to our hurricane clamps holding the roof on, hurricane shutters over the glass sliders, and 8 inch thick reinforced concrete walls. Our landscaping and tennis court fencing blew away in the high winds, but they will ‘grow’ back quickly. The power company (WAPA) reports that power has been restored to the airport and hospital on St Thomas so we are on our way back! Thank you to all who have sent your hopes and prayers for a quick recovery for the people who live and work on St John.
Sept 21 update (5 PM): Just received call from our extraordinary Webmaster and friend Steve Butcher, who spent part of the day at Great Expectations opening up the shutters and airing out the rooms. He then spent the rest of the day volunteering first on a bucket brigade helping to put out a car fire and then helping a friend patch up a very leaky roof, and then advising on WiFi access issues. Everyone on St John is spending time helping their neighbor and Steve is a great example.
Sept 20 update (11 AM St John time):
We have heard directly from our Webmaster and friend, Steve Butcher, on St. John by a very broken-up cell phone call. He was able to report he is fine as is Great Expectations so we, again, escaped Maria’s wrath as we did Irma! Steve is taking photos, but there is, as of yet, no way to get them to us. We are anxious to hear from our other friends and staff there and on Puerto Rico which was directly hit by Maria’s eye.
first text of Sept 20 (8 AM St John time): We received the following text this morning from Carrie Butcher Eubanks, the extraordinary wife of our extraordinary Webmaster and friend Steve Butcher who has been on St John since last Saturday and staying at Great Expectations (his assessment confirmed what our property manager, Kristen Cox of St John Ultimate Villas, had reported right after Irma that the Villa fared quite well!): “Steve just called. Amazingly got a cell signal. He's ok, winds weren't as bad as expected. He's trying to help get internet fixed, running around Cruz bay. Will let you know when I hear more"
Sept 19 update:
The following Facebook quote shows the optimism, determination, grit, and love of the people of St John. Business owners are working non-stop to rebuild and get re-opened. There will be boats to hire, there will be great restaurants & bars & live music to listen to. The hills will be green again. And, of course, our magnificently beautiful turquoise sea will stun you with its beauty. We will welcome you with open and full hearts.
In Kristie Henry Weiss's own words posted on her Facebook page:
Our lives depend upon your tourist dollars, and we need you to visit. If you don't visit this coming season many of us won't be around next season. We still have our bills to pay.
Your favorite restaurant may not be open or serve your favorite dish, or your beach may not be as beautiful as last time you were here, but we NEED you to come and we need you to be patient.
I own a day boat charter business and our boats survived. We are planning on being back to normal the beginning to mid November. Our waters are still beautiful!!!
Most businesses and villas have generators. You as a tourist probably won't even know that most of us in our homes are without power. That's just the way it is. We have WAPA and the power is out here a lot and most tourist don't even realize when it is off.
So, if you love the Virgin Islands, please, PLEASE, don't cancel your trip. We need you to come this year, so we'll all be around next year!!!
Let me also say, that yes, many of us have insurance to rebuild, but there are still deductibles that we have to pay.
We still have to pay our mortgages/rents, and insurance payments (which will increase), we still have to purchase food to feed our families and pay our utilities.
When tourist dollars stop coming in, we loose our incomes as well..... We've lost so much already and the best way to help is to please come back as soon as you can.
Sept 18 update:
Oh, now this really is good news, long-time repeat guests just reserved Presidents Week for 2019 to show their support and confidence that St. John will be back!
What is needed and how to help:
If you would like to help, please make a contribution to St John Rescue and the St John Community Foundation
Kenny Chesney, song writer & singer and long time St John property owner has been incredibly supportive offering his plane and resources. Listen to Kenny as he describes his love for St John and his willingness to help rebuild our island.
People who visit St John are special people with big hearts. We recently got this note from a former guest asking how to help and who commits to come back to spend more $$ on the island. We have recommended that they donate to St John Rescue:
Hi Chuck - Julie and our family stayed at your place and got married in 2014. We have been heartbroken seeing the pictures from St John over the past few days and are wondering what we could do to help. Are there worthwhile charities that would go directly to help local families or to assist in rebuilding? St John is a very special place to us and we would like to assist however we can.
Kevin and Julie
Report on Status of Great Expectations:
Our Webmaster extraordinaire, Steve Butcher, arrived on St. John Saturday, Sept 16 (he had to fly from Vermont to San Juan via JFK, then take a supply boat from Puerto Rico to Cruz Bay). He confirmed what we had seen from FEMA aerial photos and the initial report a week ago from Kristen Cox, our property manager, that Great Expectations survived Hurricane Irma incredibly well. Our thanks to our architect, John Sloan and our contractor, Bill Osborn and his construction crew, who designed and built the Villa to withstand hurricane-force winds with 8 inch thick reinforced concrete walls, no overhanging roofs and hurricane clamps to hold the roofs on, and hurricane shutters over all the glass sliders! We expect to be open for business within 2 weeks after power is restored to the island, however, we currently do not know when that will be.
Over half of our guests are return visitors. We love them because they love Great Expectations and our staff as evidenced by their return to Great Expectations, often multiple times. Our sincere thanks to all our guests, past and future, who understand that there are real people who depend on our vacation rental villa for their livelihoods — Dennis and Charles (landscaping), Lionel (exterminating), Henry (water delivery), Erickson and his staff (pool and building maintenance), Dave and his company (construction), Dick and his company (electrical), Darryl (air-conditioning), Laura and Paul (catering and chef services), Judy and Chris and their companies (private taxis from the airport), Greg and Josephine (Courtesy Car Rental), Andretti and his dad Chico (Aqua Blu car rental and taxi service), Julie and crew (Dohm’s Water Taxi), and last, but certainly not least, Kristen and her company (property management and housekeeping). Great Expectations and St John are not open for business quite yet, but we will be better and stronger than ever thanks to you!
News reports on St John recovery:
St Thomas Source (Sept 23) As reported by St John resident Amy Roberts: At the daily 10 a.m. community meeting Saturday, John Covell, who is coordinating FEMA’s response to the twin disasters of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, said opening Cruz Bay itself is not a problem. The delay is to assess other unknown problems on the way to Cruz Bay and fix navigation markers that have washed out of place...Everyone is being asked to carpool and minimize generator use...FEMA officials are working to get more fuel. Covell complimented the Disaster Immediate Response team, who were able to get a waiver to allow a single barge trip from Red Hook to Cruz Bay on Friday to bring fuel over. A second trip was authorized for Saturday...Patrick Cornbill, a FEMA incident management team leader, told St. John residents they are trying to get commercial flights back to St. Thomas later next week. Cornbill also said they were working on evacuating patients from St. Croix who were previously evacuated from St. John, and getting them off island. Cornbill said two Navy vessels were arriving in the territory with a million MRE military instant meals and a million liters of water, according to Roberts. The ships were ready to come before Hurricane Irma but the storms kept them at sea. One of the ships, USS Wright, is a command and control vessel that FEMA officials said had berths for 300 and may serve as a temporary home for FEMA personnel once it is in port.
Red Cross in Cruz Bay landing provided 2,200 meals Friday. Internet is becoming more available, thanks to the volunteer work of Matt Gyuraki and of Daryl Wade of the V.I. Next Generation Network.
Antonio “Pumpkin” Lewis, manager for plant operations at Viya, said the company hopes to bring fiber optic service back to Cruz Bay next week. The main priority now is to get First Bank’s internet wired up, and they expect FirstBank on St. John will open Monday or Tuesday...Local police are being supplemented by some New York State troopers, some of whom stayed on St. John during Maria. Others are due to arrive this weekend.
St John Community Foundation (Sept 22, 5 PM) update: Flight Update: American Airlines plans to resume service Friday, pending the airport reopening, a spokesperson told TIME. "We continue to reach out to our colleagues in Puerto Rico, which bore the brunt of the storm, but connectivity is limited. Once the airport reopens, and we can evaluate the terminal, we will resume service as soon as possible," Alfredo Gonzalez, managing director, Caribbean for American Airlines said in release Wednesday night. Service in the Dominican Republic was scheduled to resume Thursday. Delta announced it plans to resume San Juan flights Saturday with flight between hubs in Atlanta and New York City. The airline is also encouraging customers to monitor their flight status. Service to the Dominican Republic returned Thursday and service to Turks and Caicos and the U.S. Virgin Islands is expected to return Friday. A spokesperson for JetBlue said the company is evaluating the infrastructure in Puerto Rico to determine when service can resume. Flights have been cancelled through Friday, and more cancellations are possible depending on the condition in which the infrastructure is found. The airline is encouraging customers to check their flight status individually, and added that it is offering fee waivers. Southwest cancelled flights in Puerto Rico from Tuesday after 6p.m. through Friday. A spokesperson for the airlines said Southwest is "continuing to evaluate resumption of service to San Juan." United Airlines has not said when service for Puerto Rico will resume. The company is offering travel waivers for flights between Sept. 18 and 30.
St John Community Foundation (Sept 22, 10 AM) update: Together we Rise! St. John Strong is not just a catchy phrase, it captures the spirit of our community, but even the strong need support to recover from a disaster like this. This is a team effort and boy what a team that has come together.
FEEDING: Red Cross served 1700 meals yesterday and approved feeding sites have 3 days worth of food as of this morning’s reports; Cruz Bay Landing and Longboard are open 10am-12pm and 2pm-4pm. 420’s Sharky’s Machine continues to serve in an efficiently generous and continuous support mode... The 4 Cruz Bay markets are open with a good supply of dry and canned goods, as well as some frozen, but low on produce and fresh proteins. With 2 barges down, and STT flooding, we can expect that the purveyors will have limited delivery to STJ for the immediate future.
COMMUNICATION: The fiber optic cable was damaged in Maria, and the DIRT team is making sure there is a GATOR at the clinic and at the Coral Bay Fire Station to ensure some connectivity..Communications are improving hourly!
TRANSPORTATION: Roads are being constantly cleared and mud and rockslides continue to be an issue. National Park is clearing North Shore Road. People are encouraged to stay off the roads. Ports are closed today and no word of reopening for pedestrian traffic, although all people ferries are reported as operable - right now only emergency and commercial deliveries are being considered. Delivery of diesel/fuel is a concern so people are also being urged to be conservative with their supply. Only two barges are in working order and when ports officially open, deliveries of equipment and supplies, and debris removal will be priority.
SECURITY/MEDICAL: 31 NY troopers arrived today, however much of the military and FEMA deployments are needed in St. Croix and Puerto Rico with limited visibility on St. John as of this morning, but they are underway. The new police Chief Connolly was introduced this morning and seems to have things under control...
BANKING/BUSINESS: FEMA is working on getting armored ATMS for St. John; there is no word on when the banks will be open. St. John Hardware unpacked a container yesterday so has some good supplies (cash only for now).
SCHOOL/YOUTH: GHS is opening Monday as announced earlier, however due to the 6pm to 10am curfews in place, school will be from 10am-2pm (not 9am as previously announced). GHS, now being called the “private school for public use”...
VOLUNTEERS: Cory is still coordinating volunteers from Connections; now through Monday, they are needed to help clean up GHS in prep for school to start there. The Grand Celebration will essentially be the “hotel” for the National Guard and first responders in St. Thomas, who are helping residents impacted by the storms.
DONATIONS: Persons interested in helping Hurricane Irma/Maria disaster response in St. John can still best support the relief effort by making a cash donation instead of sending donated goods and services at this point in time. Cash donations to voluntary disaster relief organizations enables them to purchase exactly what is most needed whereas donated items require voluntary agencies to spend money and considerable time for sorting, inventorying, warehousing, and distribution of smaller shipments. We will get to the point of being able to do this for donations in the coming weeks, and continue to get and appreciate bulk containers of building materials and non-perishables. To make a donation to the Foundation for St. John IRMA-MARIA relief efforts go to http://thestjohnfoundation.org/donate
St John Community Foundation (Sept 21) update: “Paradise is not lost!” Communications are limited, as expected, and teams are in the process of making an assessment of damage to the island’s infrastructure. Intermittent calls and internet exchanges are coming through with reports of lots of wind and continuous rain, but no reports of serious injuries. Word this morning was an island wide full day curfew while military and first responders clear the roads and ensure the security of residents, powerlines, structures and allow teams that had been deployed to return and set up for ongoing recovery efforts and supply distribution. Residents were told to get several days of provisions prior to Maria in anticipation of this; water and MRE’s were handed out in quantities that would enable residents to stay put for several days. When curfews are lifted, people will be able to find cell reception (which is now spotty due to rains) and various Wi-Fi hotspots, including one at the Port Authority parking lot (thanks to Viya) and one at Ronnie’s, DMV and others coming up thanks to the work of VINGN, Jason and Matt. Coral Bay was connected with help from the Navy in between Irma and Maria; and Sharon is still getting messages out with requests that include the need for plastic bins for residents to protect what they were able to salvage from the continuing rains.
St John Community Foundation (Sept 20) update: “Many Islands. One Love” A few short and intermittent Satellite phone calls and posts have come in this morning after Maria passed south of St. John and made landfall in Puerto Rico at 6:15 this morning...Storm surge reportedly left most of the barges on STJ inoperable...Supplies were topped off before Maria, military and emergency responders are being redeployed, and communications are expected to resume in a slow but progressive manner.
We are getting many generous offers from people who want to come to the island to help in the recovery efforts. However, right now the few accommodations left intact are prioritized for displaced residents and federal disaster responders, who are also priority recipients of limited supplies of food, water, gasoline, etc...Register online at https://voad.communityos.org/volunteer-registration-usvi-ir… You will be contacted once public officials and disaster relief organizations have had an opportunity to assess the damage and identify what the specific unmet needs are.
Persons interested in helping Hurricane Irma/Maria disaster response in St. John can best support the relief effort by making a cash donation instead of sending donated goods and services at this point in time. Cash donations to voluntary disaster relief organizations enables them to purchase exactly what is most needed - http://thestjohnfoundation.org/donate (PayPal is waiving fees)- whereas donated items require voluntary agencies to spend money and considerable time for sorting, inventorying, warehousing, and distribution of smaller shipments. We will get to the point of being able to do this for donations in the coming weeks, and continue to get and appreciate bulk containers of building materials and non-perishables.
The amazing St. Johnians who have self-organized and taken it upon themselves to help each other continue to be nothing less than awe-inspiring! We are creating an inventory to share with the stateside Adopt-A-Family program for St. John families and will share details as it comes together...
St John Community Foundation (Sept 19) update: “A humbling yet inspiring time…” Maria is bringing rain and dangerous winds from the opposite direction this time. St. John will be locked up tight by 6pm to ride out the storm. Supplies had been topped off and people received several days worth to hold them while sheltered for this storm, while those who were in a position to buy groceries have been able to do so (although limited selection). Local law enforcement complimented by Military and Urban Rescue teams, who are sheltered in place on St. John, will be there to respond immediately and will get support from those deployments who will return to St. John after the storm passes...
Most power and internet is to be cut at noon to protect the equipment, so expect limited communications until after Maria passes; it will resume in stages.
Gifft Hill School is now being called the “private school for public use” and will open for currently enrolled students 9/25 at 9am. On the 25th at noon, they will start interviewing families who want to send their children there. Money should not be a consideration, just a willingness to learn and a desire for continuing education. They will enroll students until they are at capacity, and then figure the rest out. More details to come on how to help them continue cultivating strong minds and caring hearts. We will be supporting St. John School of the Arts, Parks and Rec and other's' efforts to ensure the youth are engaged in the aftermath of these storms. We are joining forces with a stateside Adopt-A-Family program for St. John families and will share details as it comes together.
Much gratitude for the amazing support from St. Criox during IRMA, we will pray for our sister island who is likely to get the brunt of MARIA and support our Crucian family in anyway possible. The outpouring of stateside assistance, and the resilient St. Johnians who have self organized to help take care of each other, continue to be nothing less than action packed and awe-inspiring!
We will be back in response mode for the next several days, while at the same time continue to focus on long term recovery with experienced partners who have bounced back themselves after similar disasters. Support coming in now will help us revive and rebuild in what is going to be a long road ahead. To make a donation to the Foundation for St. John IRMA relief efforts (PayPal is waiving all fees) go to http://thestjohnfoundation.org/donate
VI Consortium (Sept 16) reports Governor Mapp announced that Washington had approved his request for the federal government to burden all or most (90%) of the cost of damage caused by Hurricane Irma. New York Governor Cuomo also pledged support to the Virgin Islands...
St John Community Foundation (Sept 15) reports “We are bruised but not broken.” St. John Strong is not just a catchy phrase, it captures the spirit of our community... Navy is putting up cell towers on STJ today so communications in/out will be available ASAP - already it is improving...The clinic is hooked up with communications and supplies and getting a handle on healthcare workers (Thanks Americares!) St. John Rescue is tireless! Generators have been, and continue to be, delivered and distributed (thanks M. Bloomberg and others!!)
Yes, the island is bruised but not broken.
St John Source reports 'Volunteer Spirit amazes FEMA Official' (Sept 15) "The volunteers are “Amazing,” said John Covell who is on St. John to coordinate FEMA’s efforts. Covell was director of New York’s Hurricane Sandy Recovery office...Covell praised the cooperation and communication between the various operations in the relief effort, particularly FEMA and it’s local counterpart, VITEMA, and the staff of the National Park Service. The New Yorker said the logistics of bringing relief and recovery to a small, isolated island is challenging, but FEMA is committed."
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