St John & Great Expectations updates
To all the friends of Great Expectations:
Oct 21 update: On Friday, Governor Mapp announced that the Virgin Islands beaches are open again! Many of those living on St John already knew that since, for the last several weeks, they have been heading out to Maho, Hawksnest, or even Cinnamon Bay for a refreshing dip at the end of the 'work' day. They have been doing so informally since the National Park Service has not officially reopened the Park. However, the USVI government's Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) this past week started testing some of the waters to certify that the waters are 'safe'. The St John waters tested (Cruz Bay and Frank Bay on the west side, Oppenheimer on the north shore, and Johnson Bay on the east end) by DPNR this week passed and they all passed!
Oct 20 update: The colors of St John are getting prettier and prettier. Enjoy the sight of the this flamboyant tree which was stripped bare about a month ago but, it has been rejuvinated and is now blossoming much like the rest of St John:
Oct 19 update: Oh, what a pretty sight! No, not the blue skies over St John or the wonderfully turquoise seas surrounding our island, or even the green foliage which is quickly returning to our hillsides, but it was the sight of over 20 utility trucks parading through Cruz Bay this morning! The Governor has announced his goal of having, by Christmas, 90% of the USVI's power restored and, while visiting St John yesterday, said that Cruz Bay should be getting powered up next week. This is a wonderful video posted by the owner's of the Cruz Bay restaurant Longboard showing over 20 trucks filled with linemen who are working hard to restore the power on St John:
Oct 18 update: Nothing says I am on vacation in the Caribbean stronger than some Virgin Islands Cruzan rum. Whether mixed in one of the famous painkillers or 'neat' with Cruzan's famous Single Barrel rum now being served at reopened Woody's, Cruz Bay Landing, Banana Deck, Rhumb Lines or one of several other St John restaurants. This week, after a 3-week shut down due to Hurricane Maria, Cruzan Rum Distillery reopened and has assured its customers that its inventory of fine rum was not damaged and the people of the US Virgin Islands of its commitment to the rebuilding of our islands by investing over $2 million to recovery efforts:
Oct 16 update: Tough situations either make or break people and organizations. There is no doubt that St John and all who love our island are being tested in a big way and there is no doubt that we will come through this time better and stronger. We will do so because of some amazing people and organizations who have given their time, sweat, resources, and love. Over the course of time we will highlight several of these organizations and individuals who have truly been remarkable. The person and organization we highlight today is Kenny Chesney and his Foundation.
News of St John summarized their efforts well in this blog post. For years, Kenny Chesney (a wonderful Country singer who has made St John the base of many of his songs and albums, including Old Blue Chair and Life on a Rock) has been a property owner with a villa in Peter Bay and fixture around St John. Immediately after Hurricane Irma blew through St John (and Kenny's house), Kenny established his organization to help his beloved St John 'Love for Love City Foundation' which has brought in needed supplies (generators, chain saws, cleaning equipment, medical supplies, etc) and, as importantly technical expertise. Kenny has also been on island to personally see and support his friends and give needed hugs (as evidenced by the below picture of Kenny and the owner of Morgan's Mango). Our love and thanks to Kenny...
Oct 15 update: More restaurants have opened this week with the Dog House Pub and Rhumb Lines being the most recent. The popular sail boat Kekoa, while beaten up in the storms, is once again floating with the owner's commitment to repair her to make sure she is sailing again. The ferries and car barges are running again as are some of the private water taxis like Dolphin Water Taxi. More work will go on over the weeks to come but for today, lets just enjoy one of the wonderful photos Steve Simonsen took this very week of our beautiful island. This photo was taken from the Trunk Bay overlook. Trunk Bay is looking pretty sweet:
Oct 14 update: Great Expectations now has a 6500 watt generator thanks to Merchants Commrercial Bank on St. Thomas so we have temporary power while we wait for WAPA! Many Cruz Bay businesses are also back in business with more and more of the restaurants and bars opening up. Live music is being played again. Boats are reappearing on moorings. The beaches are being cleaned and mother nature has done a wonderful job of re-greening our island; here is what Cinnamon Bay beach looked like yesterday:
Oct 13 update: What better way to start the weekend than with one of Steve Simonsen's photos showing the rebirth of St John. This one was taken just yesterday, by drone, of Waterlemon Cay and Leinster Bay. Look at how the hillsides are coming alive with new green growth:
Oct 12 update: According to Amy Roberts, a local reporter on St. John: "WAPA crews are working hard to replace broken poles and downed wires. WAPA has set a target date of energizing Cruz Bay by mid-October and the rest of the island by Christmas.” WAPA is the local power company. Great Expectations is located 2 miles from Cruz Bay. We expect to have power next month! Read Amy’s detailed report of what is happening on St John.
We also see through LoveCityStJ that St John's beautiful flowers are showing new life as evidenced by this beautiful bird of paradise.
Oct 11 update: Gifft Hill School opens it doors and hearts to the children of St John. This might not seem unusual for a school, but it is remarkable if you consider that it is the only school on St John to be open (after experiencing two category 5 hurricanes just a month ago). Immediately after the hurricanes passed over St John, volunteers worked night and day to clean up the campus and get the school ready to go. What is especially heartening is that Gifft Hill School is a private school yet it has opened its doors to any child on St John irregardless of their ability to pay as long as the child and their parent were committed to the philosophy of the school: academic rigor, experiential learning and compassionate community. Gifft Hill has recommitted itself to being a private school with a public purpose. If you would like to donate to Gifft Hill School to support this mission, you will be helping the children of St John. This week NY State Troopers visited Gifft Hill School, bringing with them a large generator (see picture) that allowed the school to keep operating and start using more technology in their classrooms:
Oct 10 update: St John photographer Steve Simonsen took to the air (or at least his drone did) over the weekend to capture this photo showing how St John's beautiful hills are already turning from brown to green:
Oct 8 update: There has been a lot of concern about how our reefs, coral, fish, and all our wonderful underwater creatures fared through both recent hurricanes. Yesterday, St John photographer Steve Simonsen, took to the waters to find out. And, much to our delight, Steve discovered the amazing beauty and sea life when he dove at Little St James. Lobsters, turtles, fan and brain coral were found in abundance. As you can see from the photo the visibility was terrific. Enjoy all of Steve's post hurricane underwater photos:
Oct 7 update: Steve Simonsen, St John's fabulous photographer, is out and about the island capturing the beauty that is St John. This photo was taken yesterday, one month to the day after Hurricane Irma came uninvitedly to visit our island. While the hurricane left its' mark on our island, the true and lasting beauty of St John is returning as can be seen in Steve's photo of Trunk Bay overlook:
Oct 6 update: You can tell life on St John is returning to normal now that Suzi from Uncle Joe's BBQ is serving up their delicious ribs again!
Oct 5 update: Like flowers in spring, one by one St John businesses are starting to reopen. Today we were notified that the Lime Inn (home of the best Key Lime Pie and amazing All You Can Eat Shrimp) is opening its doors on October 9th! Sun Dog Cafe is now open daily for lunch and drinks and today Sam & Jacks is also opened!
Green buds are also returning to our trees and bushes. Here is a photo taken this past week (News of St John) of Cruz Bay:
Oct 4 update: We found Brion's Facebook post reflective of the energy on St John: I took a surfboard paddle around Hawksnest Bay yesterday, at sunset. Swimming in the ocean felt divine! And as you can see, the white sand and the blue sea are as gorgeous as ever, and the vegetation is coming back. The big trees downed along the coastline can only be replaced with time, but there is new green growth and new life busting out, everywhere, and it has only been a month since Irma roughed us up. It feels, here, kind of like the optimism - the new life and energy - of Springtime in the States, after a hard, cold winter. There is a great energy and a contagious, good, neighborly vibe about St. John these days. One good measure of a person is how they operate under stressful and demanding circumstances. By that standard, the people of St. John rank very high. And the island, herself, remains a striking Queen of the Caribbean - a rare Gem. Immutable. Steadfast. Regal. Beautiful in all her details. Playful. Loyal and faithful to those who love her. She is patient with the cycles of the earth's evolution, as she always has been - confident in herself and her ability to weather these pesky little fits of weather. As she soothes us with her beauty, and calms us with her patient perseverance, we admire, respect, and are faithful to her. St. John is a special place.
Oct 3 update: Our hurricane shutters are back in place as patio dividers, the sky is blue again and the grass is green at Great Expectations!
Oct 2 update: This morning, our Webmaster Steve Butcher attended the Town Meeting about the latest hurricane recovery updates. He reported that WAPA (the Virgin Islands utility company) and staff from Mike Bloomberg's disaster reaction organization which has been on St John for the past 2 weeks, and volunteers worked all weekend to clean Cruz Bay (including the beach) to ready St John for visitors! At the briefing, it was announced that Cruz Bay should have power by October 15!
A further 'good omen' is shown by the photo Steve took this morning of our Villa entrance sign. It is a ceramic sign that was handmade by St John artist Donald Schnell. The fact that it made it through both storms without a scratch or crack and is surrounded by green plantings with sun now reflecting off it are all signs of St John on the rebound!
Sept 30 update: We have plenty of coconut water to keep our great staff going to get the Villa back up and running!
Sept 29 update: Grande Bay Resort in Cruz Bay reports they have been informed by WAPA (electric power company on St Thomas) that they will have power restored within 10 days. Our cleaning crew did an amazing job yesterday and are back at it today. The Great Room, pictured below, is just about ready to receive guests! Good work!
Sept 28 update: Posted on Facebook this morning. The first commercial flights into St Thomas have resumed! With tourists come the revenue businesses need to pay their workers. The Caribbean is a gorgeous turquoise and the temperature of bath water, the sky is back to a brilliant blue with soft, white puffy clouds, and the beautiful green foliage and fauna is already starting to its new growth! Now we need you to plan to return to St John!
Sept 27 update: Governor Mapp announced that power should be back by Christmas and many on St John say it is started to happen now thanks to Former Mayor Mike Bloomberg's efforts. Commercial flights are scheduled to resume tomorrow at the St. Thomas airport! Great Expectations is abuzz (literally) with chain saws at work clearing the property of debris to take advantage of the 'growing season' (which, unlike the mainland, is during the fall and winter months). A 6 person maintenance crew is on site today cleaning the pools, hot tubs and patios, opening up the terrific hurricane shutters, and putting out our outdoor furniture and hammocks!
Michael Barry is a long-time St John resident and restaurant owner (Sun Dog Cafe) who posted this on his Facebook page. We applaud his attitude and that of most St Johnians who are working ceaselessly to get their businesses ready to greet customers!
Sept 26 update: As is said "a picture is worth a thousand words"! Our Webmaster extraordinaire Steve Butcher took this photo of Cruz Bay yesterday. While the hills are still brown, the beautiful blue skies have returned as has the blue sea. The beauty of St John is returning:
Sept 25 update: We just talked with our property manager, Kristen Cox, who made it through both hurricanes which hit St John and is still there working hard to help get our property cleaned and ready to re-open. Kristen spoke glowingly about the spirit and resolve of those making the effort to rebuild St John. She reported that barges are bringing container loads of supplies to St John, bank ATM's have been restored, stores and restaurants are back in business. Sun Dog Cafe just opened today and the following restaurants have either opened or will be opening soon: Lime Inn, La Tapa, Extra Virgin, and The Beach Bar. Cruz Bay Landing and the restaurant 420 To Center are both open and serving hundreds of meals each day -- for free -- for anyone on St John needing food. The Dolphin Market and Starfish Market have both reopened. Kristen, who lived through Hurricane Marilyn in 1995 and saw how the island rebounded then, promised us that power would be restored and everything ready for visitors to return by Christmas! She confirmed that plants are already sprouting new green growth!
Sept 24 update: Communication with St John, while still sporadic, is starting to occur! We just received pictures showing the concrete walls, roofs and hurricane shutters still intact and secure after two hurricanes!:
Sept 23 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:
VI Consortium (Oct 14) update: Governor Kenneth Mapp said on Friday evening that more than 500 linemen from across the U.S. will soon be in the territory to help the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority meet its goal of restoring power to 90 percent of the USVI by Christmas...
VI Consortium (Oct 6) update:
- WAPA is reminding residents that it is illegal to remove the meter seal or to tamper with or remove an electrical meter from a meter base. It is understandable that in the aftermath of the hurricanes, customers want to get their weather head and or meter bases repaired, however, electrical meters and meter seals can only be removed by WAPA personnel. Tampering with either the meter or the meter seal is a punishable offense. If damage is apparent to a customer’s service meter, WAPA will remove the meter to allow for repairs. In fact, some meters have already been removed from locations where damage was noted.
- Emergency call centers on St. Thomas & St. Croix are operating daily on a 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. schedule. To contact the Emergency Call Center on St. Thomas – St. John the call center’s telephone number is 340-774-1424.
- In addition to crews from Haugland Energy, off-island crews from BBC Electric Services Inc. of Missouri, along with Northeast Public Power Association are expected in the territory by mid-October to assist with WAPA’s restoration efforts in both districts. The companies are providing additional manpower, equipment and supply inventory to augment WAPA’s restoration. Crews from the three off-island contractors will be equally divided in both districts.
- WAPA continues to work jointly with Viya, the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority, and the Department of Public Works on a clean-up initiative across the territory. The Authority is also working alongside the Virgin Islands Next Generation Network, viNGN.
VI Consortium (Sept 28) update: Island Days - Island Ways. There is some stop and go, intermittent service at the bank, with potable water at Cinnamon and in other areas of daily life...but as they say in the islands...soon come. There were some wide eyes from stateside responders as it was announced that the x-ray machine was down at DeCastro, so people needing x-rays were being sent to the vet - but we get it.
Up on the roof: Army Corps of Engineers will be set up one more day in Cruz Bay at Connections and then will move out to Coral Bay to get the ROE (Right of Entry) to install the sheathing/tarps mentioned in previous posts...
One man’s trash: A dedicated barge for trash is removing approximately 22 bins a day from STJ to STT and will be adding extra bins at trouble spots...
Let there be power: A larger generator is on the way to Coral Bay to replace the smaller one at the Fire Station, which will go to the Bethany Moravian Shelter - thanks FEMA - they are also making sure that the schools have the generators they need to enable public schools to start on Oct 9th. St John Hardware will have more generators on Monday. ATT barge of equipment has left the mainland and service restoration is around the corner.
Red Cross in Action: ARC is working with DIRT Team to distribute more cleaning kits on Monday. They estimate that 85% of people in Coral Bay have received Clean Up Kits...They are still supporting the service of 2000 meals a day between Longboard and Cruz Bay Landing (at least through Tuesday), with meals delivered to Coral Bay (let us know that you receive these!)
Hungry as a horse: Starfish got a delivery today! Water was also distributed to people today and VITEMA will continue MRE/Water/Misc distribution tomorrow (Fri) from 12-3 in Cruz Bay on the ball field and from 9-2p in Coral Bay...Dr Heidi organized feed to come in from STT and horses now have water. The Animal evacuation team is stuck in Atlanta at the moment, as people take priority, but they will be underway ASAP!
Medical news: If you have insulin that needs to be kept cold, according to the Com of Health, contact the Dept of Health or through the EOC/VITEMA to request a small generator (it will not be bigger than one to run the fridge). The Johns Hopkins Psychological Counselors will be in Cruz Bay and Coral Bay, and a DMAT team is coming to relieve them next week
On the road again: National Park continues to clear roads. The main road to Coral Bay is still precarious - discussion about having a shuttle as a consideration since people have been encouraged not to traverse that road. The NY Troopers are on the road and will focus on Coral Bay...
All work no play? Then don’t miss The Tap Room - St John Brewers happy hour tomorrow (Friday) until curfew kicks in!
The American Bar Association and local lawyers will be meeting to see how to best serve the needs of residents...The business community is meeting with the Governor and IRB, licensing, etc. They will discuss how they can help local businesses….with IRB and licensing et al. They will be talking to cruise lines to schedule trips back to the VI. The St John Community Foundation is working on the STJ Business Alliance that was formulated prior to Irma and will be setting up a similar meeting in the very near future to establish a support network.
To make a donation to the Foundation for St. John IRMA-MARIA relief and recovery efforts go to http://thestjohnfoundation.org/donate
St John Community Foundation (Sept 26) update: “Today is better than it was yesterday.”...Now that internet is more accessible, more posts are being shared - please T.H.I.N.K. before sharing...is it True. Helpful. Inspiring. Necessary. Kind.
GETTING AROUND; TRANSPORTATION: The 6 p.m. to 9 a.m. curfew for the St. Thomas/St. John district officially remains in effect, and there have been no issues regarding this on STJ. Gas distribution: E&C is open; NPS dock opens from 8-12 for response workers and at noon for the general public. Ferry service continues on the following schedule: Departing Cruz Bay at 9, 10, 12, 3, 5p; returning at 9:30, 11:30, 1:30, 3:30 and 5:30p (note: check the ferry dock for the current schedule as it is subject to change). Car barge service currently runs once a day, ask at the barge for the schedule as it changes daily. Ports are open in Puerto Rico and St. Croix. This is restricted to limited service and daytime travel only. This means that shipping companies like Tropical and Merchants will be operational this week! The Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas is expected to reopen for commercial flights on Thursday, September 28, U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Kenneth E. Mapp announced Monday...
YOUTH & MORE: GHS School is in session from 10a-2p Mon. thru Fri. at GHS; Anyone can come with their child to register for classes starting at 12noon every day for information about placement tests and more...
POWER, COMMUNICATION & COMMERCE: First Bank Full service and ATM operational during the hours of 9-2pm when Marketplace generator is on. Merchants Bank says they are open in STT from 12-4pm, but for more info call 779-2265. WiFi hot spots near Ronnie’s Pizza, Connections, between the BMV building and the tennis court, and on the 3rd floor of the Marketplace. Look for VINGN-FreePublic. No password is needed, just a sign-in agreement page when first connecting...Open for Business: Chelsea Drug Store, Starfish Market, the health clinic at the Marketplace, St. John Hardware, Paradise Lumber, Connections, St. John Ice, Dolphin Market, Pine Peace Market, E&C Service, Caravan Auto, Pink Papaya, Hercules and Chesters and Calabash Market in Coral Bay are all operational. Community Happy Hour at Tap Room on Fridays! Postal Service: Although post office is not officially open, they are distributing mail via a system that works best in the moment (you still cannot mail out). Power: WAPA has executed agreements for a first phase of 240 linemen to assist with the Territory’s reconstruction with more on the way. WAPA officials are working with federal partners to transport crews and equipment to the Territory to restore power as rapidly as possible. In his talks with federal officials, Governor Mapp emphasized the importance of building resilience into the power distribution system.
FEEDING, FEMA and RED CROSS: Food distribution from noon-3pm at JESS ballfield and at the Fire Station in Coral Bay. Cruz Bay Landing, Longboard supported by Red Cross to serve up to 1000 meals per day; 420, Indigo Grill, Dog House and others providing supportive service and more announcements of restaurant openings on social media including SunDog Cafe!
Our community is resilient and with your help, we WILL rebuild! To make a donation to the Foundation for St. John IRMA-MARIA relief efforts go to http://thestjohnfoundation.org/donate
Coast Guard Port Condition Update (Sept 24, 6 PM):
St. Thomas, East and West Gregorie Channels, U.S. Virgin Islands - Open with restrictions
- Daylight transit only
- Tropical Shipping
Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas - Open with restrictions
- Daylight transit only
Red Hook, St. Thomas - Open with restrictions
- Daylight transit only
Cruz Bay, St. John - Open with restrictions
- Daylight transit only
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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