Hurricane season began last week, bringing with it the first named storm of the year.
The system that became Tropical Storm Alex on Sunday killed three people in Cuba, flooded parts of Florida and touched Bermuda before dissipating over the Atlantic Ocean on Tuesday.
Here in the Virgin Islands, leaders are warning residents to prepare for more.
“For the seventh year in a row, forecasters indicate this season will bring above average levels of storm activity to the region,” Gov. John Rankin said June 1, the first day of hurricane season.
This year, Colorado State University meteorologists are predicting 19 named storms, nine of which are likely to develop into hurricanes, including four classified as “major.”
“I appreciate that for many people in the territory, Covid and recent events may make it more difficult to devote the time and effort required to plan and prepare for a possible storm impact,” added Mr. Rankin. “However, these tasks should not be taken on your own.”
Instead, he urged residents to talk to co-workers, friends and neighbors about how they can work together to protect themselves “before, during and after” storms and other hazards.
Meanwhile, he said, the public service is conducting its annual readiness assessments to ensure that every government agency can continue to provide essential services throughout hurricane season.
“This year, in an effort to minimize gaps in access to food, housing, fuel, building materials and communication services, businesses in these critical private sector areas have been invited to join to the readiness assessment exercise,” he said. “The Department of Disaster Management provides technical support and advice to these companies to help them improve their emergency operations.
and contingency plans.
Outside the territory’s borders, he added, the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency have reiterated their commitment to providing disaster support. major.
Prime Minister Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley also delivered a message on June 1, recalling the destruction caused by Hurricane Irma in 2017.
“With the memories of what we faced five years ago still fresh in our minds, I urge all of us to remember what we learned during the fateful 2017 season and since,” he said. . “Whatever you would have liked to do then, gather your families, your colleagues, your villages and your communities and do it now, because together we can be ready.”
Although much of the government’s takeover of Irma has been delayed by a lack of funding, Dr Wheatley highlighted the progress that has been made, including the reconstruction of roads, public buildings and reservoirs.
“Please don’t let this progress pass you by,” he said. “On the contrary, let us do everything we can to support our family and our community. »
To that end, he urged residents to review and update contingency plans and supply kits.
“Now is the time to take action to protect property by inspecting structures, bracing homes and businesses where necessary and removing hazards from the outside,” he added. “For those who can, it is also time to identify vulnerable members of our extended families or villages to see what assistance may be needed.”