ST. CROIX, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – USVI Governor Kenneth E. Mapp advised residents and visitors to take action to protect lives and property during a news conference held Monday afternoon at Government House on St. Croix.
A Hurricane Watch was issued for the U.S. Virgin Islands earlier in the day at 11 a.m. Atlantic Standard Time by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), meaning within 48 hours the U.S. Virgin Islands will experience hurricane conditions.
In addition, Governor Mapp has declared a State of Emergency for the U.S. Virgin Islands, effective 12:01 a.m. Tuesday. Effective the same time, the Governor has also ordered the Virgin Islands National Guard into active military service.
“We expect to be in the southern quadrant of this storm,” Governor Mapp said, noting that this could change as the storm progresses.
The effects of Hurricane Irma, now a Category 4 storm, are expected to be felt in the U.S. Virgin Islands beginning Wednesday morning, with the eye of the storm predicted to be some 40 miles north of St. Thomas, resulting in potential winds as high as 80 miles per hour, with gusts possibly being higher.
“Forty miles north of St. Thomas is not a lot of distance,” Governor Mapp cautioned. “We want the people of the Virgin Islands to be prepared. We have the experience going through hurricanes and we know that preparation and vigilance is the success to getting through hurricane weather.”
While the Governor assured the public there was no cause for panic, he urged everyone to prepare for the storm’s potential impact.
“We have to be prepared. We have to take this event very seriously,” he said.
The Governor recommended all residents and visitors stay away from the beaches and asked hotels to advise guests to stay indoors during the weather system. More than 5,000 visitors are scheduled to remain in the Territory over the next few days.
“Hurricanes are not part of the vacation experience,” Governor Mapp said, cautioning visitors against going outside or attempting activities such as surfing during the inclement weather. “It’s a very dangerous time and we don’t want you going out.”
Governor Mapp assured the public his Cabinet is working with all relevant departments and entities to ensure preparations continue to be made. Beginning Tuesday, the Department of Human Services will have shelters open and prepared to house anyone in need.
Shelters on St. John
Bethany Methodist Church
Julius Sprauve School
Shelters on St. Thomas
E. Benjamin Oliver School
Nisky Moravian Church
Knud Hansen Complex
Sugar Estate Head Start
Special Needs: Community Health Center
Shelters on St. Croix
St. Croix Educational Complex
Herbert Grigg Home for the Aged
Claude O. Markoe School
Hospitals, the Governor noted, are not shelters, and must be reserved for emergency care. He also advised the public to fill any necessary prescriptions today or early tomorrow. Ambulances will be positioned at fire stations across the Territory so they can mobilize quickly if needed.
The Governor advised residents to clear loose and potentially hazardous items surrounding their homes to limit debris that could become airborne in strong winds.
“It’s a good time to do some spring cleaning,” he said. The Governor also recommended residents disconnect the downspout that feeds into their cisterns Tuesday to prevent salt, dirt and debris from contaminating the water supply, noting he would be doing that himself.
The first day of public school has been postponed until further notice. Government employee work closures are yet to be determined. The public is advised to stand by for updates in this regard.
The Government of the U.S. Virgin Islands will communicate with residents during the storm through local media, the Internet and social media. To stay informed of the latest updates affecting the Territory, the public is advised to visit informusvi.com and to sign up for alerts at vialert.gov.
Other resources include:
VITEMA – https://www.facebook.com/vitema/
Government House -https://www.facebook.com/GovernmentHouseUSVI/
The Department of Tourism -www.usviupdate.com
Governor Mapp will hold a follow-up news conference tomorrow to deliver more information. A media advisory will be sent out with details.