FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 30, 2017
U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS UNDER FLOOD WATCH
Heavy weekend rain forecast as hurricane recovery effort progresses


U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS - Governor Kenneth E. Mapp warned residents of the Territory, battered by back-to-back hurricanes, to prepare for heavy rains this weekend, which could cause flooding.

The Territory is under a flood watch, with two to four inches of rain expected through Sunday. “We are going to have a lot of rain and you need to be aware and prepared for that,” he said Friday.

Meanwhile, at his daily press briefing, the Governor reported progress in other areas of the relief and recovery efforts.

Following a meeting with the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, William Dudley, addressing the financial liquidity of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Governor Mapp declared “the banking and financial system of the Territory remains in order.”

Local banks reported they had sufficient cash needs to meet the demands of consumers, and Governor Mapp expected residents would be able to access their accounts. Businesses should have few problems, he added, despite the decreased access to banking because of the curfew.
To speed the recovery effort, the Governor announced the nomination of Nelson Petty, Jr. as Commissioner of Public Works with Dennis Brow recommended to serve as his Assistant Commissioner Territory-wide. He commended the two men on their leadership and hard work to clear roads and remove debris in the wake of back-to-back storms.

To improve the mobility of residents, curfew hours have been reduced on St. Thomas, St. John and Water Island from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., while St. Croix’s curfew will be adjusted from 6 p.m. to 10 a.m. But the Governor added the ability to move around in public will continue to be curtailed to enable workers to get the poles and transformers out of the way. “We will continue to shrink the curfew until I can obliterate it completely,” he said.

Governor Mapp told assembled reporters the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) allocated funds to rebuild the distribution of the power and water systems, allowing more linemen to travel to the Territory to assist local crews in restoring essential services.

Governor Mapp and Adjutant General Deborah Howell shared their deepest condolences as they confirmed the death of a member of the Virgin Islands National Guard, Private First Class Kyjuan Naughton. His name had previously been withheld until next of kin was notified. “We are deeply saddened,” General Howell said. “My heart bleeds, as everyone in my formation becomes my child. I ask for your prayers and God’s guidance in serving. … We will make every effort to grieve and still serve our community.” Governor Mapp confirmed the incident is being treated as a homicide and is being investigated by the Virgin Islands Police Department and its partners. “May his soul rest in eternal peace,” General Howell said. Naughton was 21 years old.

A press conference will be held on Monday at which the Medical Examiner and the Attorney General will update residents on the number of hurricane-related fatalities, which has been adjusted from seven to five.

The Governor reminded residents with non-permitted generators they must shut down between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. in order to give neighbors an opportunity to rest. The generators also have to be placed in an area which minimizes exposure to air pollutants produced by the generators. Enforcement officers from the Department of Planning and Natural Resources will enforce these regulations.

In speaking with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Governor urged more speed in hiring contractors on the Blue Roof program. However, he cautioned those who lost all of their roof frames, or more than 50 percent of their roofs, probably would not qualify for the Blue Roof program. “So I made an application to the FEMA folks to do a rapid repair for those homes because we really want to get people sheltered in place. We can’t wait until we get to the permanent fix of the houses,” which he said could take up to five months. The Blue Roof program will officially kick off on Monday with locations where residents can apply to be announced.

Addressing residents in shelters, he reported that work with housing officials on getting people placed in homes will be moving at a more rapid pace in order to ready the schools for the October 9 start date. “But we are not going to (displace) you and put you out in the elements because we need access to schools. Your Government will not do that.”

Meanwhile, the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) announced classes at the university would resume on October 9 with “creative scheduling”, including an expansion of online offerings to allow more students to access lectures and learning materials. UVI Director of Campus Operations for St. Croix Nereida Washington said that in addition to traditional classroom lectures, professors are being asked to videotape classes for students to access at a later date as well as to post lectures on YouTube.

Food and commodity distribution occurred Friday across the Territory, however the Governor reminded his Administration to remain on schedule by dedicating four hours a day, four days a week for food distribution. “We are going to help folks transition through this process,” he said. He noted “our ports are open and more food commodities are coming in so stores can stock … we’re not going to be airlifting additional food and water into the Territory.” Distribution will take place Saturday on St. Croix only, however, there will be no distribution Territory-wide on Sunday. Distribution will resume again on Monday.

Based on the number of passengers who sailed from San Juan to St. Croix on Wednesday, Royal Caribbean was able to increase the allotment of passengers embarking at the Ann E. Abramson Pier on St. Croix, resulting in 866 passengers boarding the vessel Friday afternoon. Additional spaces for the journey to Fort Lauderdale are also available in St. Thomas Saturday. Boarding will commence at 8 a.m. at the West Indian Company's (WICO) Havensight Dock.

The Governor thanked Commissioner of Tourism Beverly Nicholson-Doty and the Department of Tourism team for arranging and processing the mercy missions. “I know from the briefings that they have not been easy and I want to thank them for all they’re doing for those persons who are exiting the Territory,” he said.

Commissioner Nicholson-Doty will join the Governor, along with other members of his leadership team, to discuss recovery efforts at Government House with the St. Croix business community on Saturday at 1 p.m.

On a lighter note, Governor Mapp reminded fellow residents that seven of the Sunshine Isle theaters were screening movies in St. Croix and urged families to treat themselves.


Anyone experiencing psychological distress as a result of the hurricanes can call the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 (press 2 for Spanish). The helpline provides free, confidential and multilingual counseling and crisis support. The helpline can also be reached via SMS by texting talkwithus (for English) or hablanos (for Spanish) to 1-212-461-4635.

Residents can register for disaster assistance by calling 1-800-621-3362 or visiting www.disasterassistance.gov .

The official website to donate to the U.S. Virgin Islands recovery effort is usvirecovery.org .

Other resources for information include:

Government House: informusvi.com
VITEMA: vialert.gov
The Department of Tourism: www.usviupdate.com
Emergency Operation Centers:
(340) 773-2244 (St. Croix)
(340) 776-2244 (St. John)
(340) 774-2244 (St. Thomas)

Government House | No. 21-22 Kongens Gade | 340 774-0001 | www.vi.gov
  
     
       For more information:
     Samuel Topp |  Deputy Director of Communications
     (340) 998-6658 |   samuel.topp@go.vi.gov