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Date: Fri, 25 Sep 1998 06:46:29 -0400 From: Bruce Potter at Island Resources (email@example.com) (http://www.irf.org/) Subject: The Passage of GEORGES through the USVI So, on Monday morning, 21 Sept, about 7am, I sent this message --->> The 5am position puts the Hurricane on top of St. Eustatius --- 17.4North, and 63.1 West. Peak winds down to 115 Pillsbury Sound is a lot of waves and white caps --- winds are 20 to 25 --- Storm is supposed to be passing near STX, with peak winds still set for around 4 PM today, but then again Roy Schneider [physician-Governor of the US Virgin Islands---nicknamed Poppa Doc, not just for his MD] may not be our best meteorologist --- probably my last message before the storm Now here's the rest of my annotated diary of the passage of the storm, as transcribed by me on early Wednesday morning, (September 23rd) [Brackets are my later amendments or expansions...] [This was a scary storm because everyone in the Eastern Caribbean is getting gun shy of some of these big storms we've been having the past ten years --- locally people count four or five storms in the decade: Hugo, Luis, Bertha, Marilyn --- and because GEORGES was REAL strong within 24 hours of hitting the Virgin Islands---sustained winds of 150 mph.] Monday, 21 September -- 7:30am The local St. Thomas Radio [WVWI, the station I would listen to throughout the storm] carries a story from CANA [the Caribbean News Association] that Hurricane GEORGES has resulted in significant structural damages in St. Kitts-Nevis, with one death and a number of fires reported [This is the last news we have received on conditions in the Eastern Caribbean. ] [By seven am, we know that the approach of the storm will be square on the USVi from the Southeast, with winds now down to 120 mph. It's still not clear exactly where it will pass in relation to St. Croix (STX) in the south, or St. Thomas-St. John, in the north. with the historic options being to pass along the south coast of STX like Hugo (1989--it was especially devastating in STX because it was big and fast--175 mph---AND because it stalled over the west end of STX - subjecting the island to hurricane force winds for more than 12 hours). The speed of advance of this storm has been quite regular and rapid, mostly 17 to 20 mph, ever since it was first spotted. In the course of the passage of the storm we can expect that STT will pass through the strong northern hemicircle of the storm's circulation, which means winds from the north, northeast and southeast, as the storm passes on a roughly eastsoutheast to west north west track. Since the night before (i.e., Sunday nite) it has been anticipated that strong winds will begin by 10am, hurricane force winds by noon or slightly later, and nearest passage around four pm on Monday.] 8:03am Report of a 75 mph gust on Crown Mountain in St. Thomas. [Where the radio stations have their big antennas. With these early gusts, the stations start to dismantle their downlink satellite antennas to avoid damage.] 8:45am Spray and Spindrift in gusts from the wind blowing [out of the northeast ] into Vessup Bay in front of the Eastwinds Condominium, where I am staying.[The apartment building is about a quarter mile from the water, and maybe 25 feet above sealevel---no real risk, but the specific apartment I am in is on the east end of the second floor of the building, with two banks of windows on the ] 9:00 Judith Towle called from DC and said that a Dr. Grasse from Buffalo had been trying to get ahold of me on Friday (message on the machine at the Island Resources office in DC). With a few tries, I was eventually able to call Buffalo and authorize the doctor to remove the (basal cell) skin cancer they had diagnosed on Vern's chin. That call was completed about 9:25, and was the last off-island call I made until 1am this morning. 9:10am Weather reports have the storm at 17.6 north/63.8 west, about 65 miles east of St. Croix. There is a radio report of a personal account from St. Barts that they had experienced hurricane force winds from 2am to 6am --- no report of damages. 10am Strong Winds (30 kts) from the NE. A ketch in the anchorage that I can see is pitching violently [because the waves coming into Vessup Bay at this time have a fetch of five or six miles to St. John. Only about six boats were anchored in this normally busy area --- the other couple dozen that would normally be here either left two days ago to go into one of the three or four hurricane anchorages, or left the Eastern Caribbean a couple months ago entirely. A week ago Ed Towle and I commented that we had never seen so FEW boats anchored in St. Thomas Harbor]. Gusts at this time downtown were clocked at the radio station at 56 mph (their transmitter is down near the water]. WAPA (Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority) says that by 10am they have cut off all electrical production on STX and are shutting down the plants [in anticipation of storm surge or other problems]. Power in STT will be cut off on a "feeder" by feeder basis as winds force outages, until noon, when the entire system will be shut down in St. Thomas. 10:30am Phone call from St. Croix to WVWI reports strong winds and totally white ocean from waves and spindrift. 10:45 Winds seem to be shifting to the Northeast. Force at Eastwinds is maybe 40mph, and there is still little rain. [The shift is good news because it takes some of the pressure off the big picture windows in front of the apartment. By this time I had already taped the big windows to keep flying glass down if they do break, and I have moved my chair behind a file cabinet --- mostly reading a novel]. The windows on the east side are smaller and much stronger --- risk there is from things flying through the air, or power cables coming loose---that happened in the back bedroom in Marilyn (maybe Hugo, too?) 11:am Forecast says storm will pass STT (closest approach) at 3PM. Currently it's said to be 35 miles South of STT [weird way to describe the fact that apparently it's skirting the NORTH SHORE of St. Croix, which is just 38 miles south of STT. On Tuesday, one of the callers to the station (from STX) notes this weirdness.] Weather forecast says winds will be 70mph by 11:15 in STT, with serious rain starting then also [apparently based on radar reports from the weather radar in Puerto Rico.] Banana trees next to the apartment building starting to shred their fronds. 11:10am Phone report from Bordeaux Mountain on St. John says they have had 94mph peak gust with 45-65mph steady winds. 11:15 am Power goes off at Eastwind Condo.[Won't be back on until 6:30 pm Tuesday. Consensus of everyone is that havvinng ahurricane pass in the daylight is preferable to the nighttime (which has been the experience with the past couple of big ones.) 11:30am The condo is starting to shake in strong gusts. [This is a poured concrete building with sixteen units in two stories---pretty impressive---the shaking will continue till about 7 pm.] The Virgin Islands delegate to Congress is on the radio assuring the people that she is working in our best interests---not clear if this call was on AT&T, or if it was via one of the sattelite phones that FEMA types have brought with them. About forty feds are on-island in anticipation of the storm. Noon Herb Schoenbaum, Virgin Islands radio character and convicted "blue box"" phone hacker felon reports from near Christiansted STX that wind has slackened to 50 knots and shifted to the NW, and sky has lightened almost to blue. Barometer in STX is 29.56 inches (about 0.25 inches higher than reported for the eye of the storm). Windy in STT. Splotchy showers ---hard to see Vessup Bay from the apartment. [People starting to marvel at the fact that phones are still working. [System was rebuilt after Hurricane Marilyn in 1995, with major trunk line fiberoptic lines being buried all around the island---throughout the entire storm WVWI runs a call-in type talk show, moderated by a guy named Sam Top from his house overlooking Mandahl Bay on the north side of STT. Truly amazing, but not unlike people's experience throughout the islands. Locally-owned VITELCO is getting many deserved kudos.] 12:10pm Strong gusts. From Bordeaux Mountain on ST. John, they report 60 to 85 knot winds with 120 mph gusts, barometer at 28.75. In STT, two or three people report gusts on the north side over 100 mph. 1:00pm Winds at Eastwind I estimate at 50 to 60 mph steady with lots of gusts. Rain is still pretty splotchy out of the north, but rain is increasing. I can no longer see even the nearest branch of Vessup Bay. The weather report says the eye of the storm is now east of STX, en route to Vieques. Winds seem to be shifting to the ESE from the Northeast, where they've been for the past three or four hours 1:30pm Top of the papaya tree off my balcony is frayed off, but the green coconuts on the palm are still there (and never do fall---but they are pretty small---hand sized). Terrific wind gusts with heavy rain (which gives wind more oomph). Woman call radio from Red Hook (across Vessup Bay from me)---reports that a 34 foot power boat which had been anchored out has drifted back into the inner part of the bay, where there are docks and boats and Gumbs houseboat. 1:50pm The banana trees are down on the ground.Trees are now starting to lose leaves and branches. 2:00 Several reports from Fredericksted in the West End of STX says the eye of the Hurricane has just passed, with both a calm and pronounced wind shift. 2:10 Radio station reports the barometer at the station is starting to rise---think they said it was at 29.36. [Not clear if the barometers are actually properly calibrated, but direction of movement should be telling.] 2:15 Hard rain and wind at Eastwinds, but wind is around to the East or ESE --- no pressure directly on the front of the apartment. 3:00 Hard rain and heavy winds with frequent gusts to maybe 75mph (my guess) 3:25 Hardest rain and gusts yet. [Starting to get too dark in the apartment to be able to read.] 4:00 Rain and wind continue. Storm reported over Vieques. Weather report says heaviest rain bands are now over the USVI and that hurricane force winds can be expected in the VI until 7pm. 4:30 Conditions seem at there heaviest -- can occasionally hear "locomotives." 4:45 St. Croix reports diminished winds [they are in the smaller hemicircle of the storm] Winds in STT are still gusty, trees still have some leaves. 5:00 Can see out to Vessup Bay. One sailboat off the Park Service dock is gone, but the three big boats in the outer anchorage are still there [I'M impressed!] 7:00 Still breezy (40+mph) and rainy ---twice loud cracks from something hitting windows in back bedroom, but nothing breaks. Forecast is for tropical storm winds until after 8PM, diminishing after 10PM 8:00pm Storm now near San Juan. Weather report is forecasting 22 inches of rain in some inland areas of Puerto Rico. Winds in Frenchtown still being clocked at 56 knots with gusts to 63. Then I went to sleep and slept until about dawn (6am) Tuesday. Day was cloudy, with 20 knot SE breezes in the AM, tapering off to 15 by afternoon. Showers were forecast, but we got none in this part of STT. Radio stations and phones still working---except my own phone in the apartment (340/775-63960 which stopped working sometime in the middle of the nite --- it had been working when I went to sleep around 9PM. Governor is on radio by 7am, lifting the curfew which had been in place since 8PM SUNDAY night. Governor seems reasonably optimistic, but perhaps less so than radio reports have been. No loss of life, few reports of roofs coming off. (Curfew was reinstated a 8 PM Monday nite till dawn.) Washed the windows, put screens back up. By nine AM the condo had a generator hooked up to provide water (they turned it on three times during the day, in a drill that had been well developed during the six weeks or more that power was off in 1995 after Marilyn). By noon, WAPA said they were re-commissioning generators and would be able to supply desal water by 2PM. They would then turn current back on as they had a chance to check out major damages on each feeder and isolate those areas where lines were down. By 6:30 PM, power was on at the Condo! Just too late to save the melted ice cream!!! Major problems seemed to be 1) lack of air service (airlines are fussy about having instrument landing systems operational and fuel supplies tested and certified before they will land---plus the passage of the storm over Puerto Rico during the early hours of Tuesday means that they won't be landing there for a while. By governor's 4:30 press conference, they were saying the runways on both islands were useable, but had no indications of when scheduled services would resume, and I didn't hear of any emergency supplies coming in yet. 2) Total lack of long distance phones. This is ONLY because AT&T uses microwave antennas to bring phone messages from the fibreoptic cable landing site at Magens Bay on the north shore of St. Thomas, to Charlotte Amalie on the south shore --- a distance of no more than 5 miles. In the winds, the microwave antennas got bent and apparently cannot be quickly repaired. They have NObackup, but they say they are going to fly stuff in real soon now. This of course in spite of the fact that this storm was accurately forecast days ago. If FEMA could land 30 or 40 people and tons of gear, you'd think AT&T could land a technician with a spare antenna. But there are two or three additional problems with that - --- they had EXACTLY the same problem in 1995. Couldn't they have anticipated it? --- AND in 1996, VITELCO ran a fibreoptic cable from the Magens Bay landing to Charlotte Amalie, as an emergency or backup system. AT&T REFUSED to connect to the fibreoptic cable, or to permit VITELCO to install connectors that could be plugged in to their system in an emergency. --- Finally, VITELCO uses microwave links from STT to STX, and their equipment stayed up and fully functional throughout the storm. Is it possible AT&T is using inferior equipment, improperly installed and ineffectively maintained? Is it possible AT&T doesn't give a damn what happens in the US Virgin Islands? Well it's just a guess, but.... By 7 PM Tuesday nite they had finally connected at least some of the fibreoptic lines, so we have about 30% of normal capacity for long distance service. Which is why I will post this e-mail at 5 am. The US Virgin Islands came through Hurricane Georges VERY nicely. Great illustration of the positive economic benefits of preparation. Power and phones are largely back on, island-wide, 30hours after the storm. It does mean that Poppa Doc will be re-elected even easier than we thought he would, but at this point, I'm even willing to let him have the job. Of course, it's also the advantage of 80-mile-per hour winds, as compared with 110! Only real problem is the lack of phone contact with the outside world, directly attributable to the obdurate refusal of AT&T Long Lines to invest in simple and inexpensive back-up systems. So things are fine, and as soon as I can find out whether the people in Antigua still want me to come up there for a meeting next week, I may arrange to come home by the weekend . Of course, there is this storm named Jean..... best bruce
Date: Thu, 24 Sep 1998 18:47:43 -0500 (CDT) From: Eileen Slakes (Caerurfa@webtv.net) Subject: St Thomas I have spoken with my family in St. Thomas and they seem to have come through the Hurricane very well. There was , naturally, the sustained damage like downed trees and roof tops off etc, I understand the Govenor had things well under excellent control though , and no one seems to have been killed there.. I heard that there were a few people on the streets after curfew, who were ready to loot , but the guards arrested them before they could do their mischief. Contacting relatives may be slow, but there is telephone service to them, and they are doing a.ok . considering all that has haooened. I hope this will help ease things for those of you who have not been able to talk with your loved ones yet. Sincerely. . E.Slakes.
Date: Thu, 24 Sep 1998 17:55:43 -0400 From: "Aquannette Y. Chinnery, P.C." (firstname.lastname@example.org) Subject: U.S. Virgin Islands Lawyer -- Hurricane Georges page Hi, You may want to visit this site. My law office provided it as a public service and received thousands of hits in the last few days. URL: http://www.usvi-lawyer.com
Date: Thu, 24 Sep 1998 17:42:58 -0400 From: Tom Choate (email@example.com) Subject: St Thomas update I have been in touch, both by telephone and internet with Gordon Ackley, President of Ackley Communications on St Thomas, who assures me that all systems are coming back. His radio station is back and he tells me that none of his towers went down on the three islands.† They were not hit too badly by Georges, and all lines of communication should be open within a few days.† They were much more fortunate that San Juan, only 40 miles away.
Date: Wed, 23 Sep 1998 23:20:22 EDT From: Robtcurt@aol.com Subject: Hurricane info I was able to call an associate in St Thomas today via a cell phone service. He stated that the land lines are still down and indicated that the damage on St Thomas and St Johns was minimal. Some broken palm trees, a few missing roofs, but no severe devastation that was experienced on Puerto Rico. I also received an email mssg later in the day from another party that indicated power was being restored and the situation is gradually improving. It appears that they were very lucky compared to other areas. Bob
Date: Wed, 23 Sep 1998 09:10:35 EDT From: NoShoez@aol.com Subject: update I just wanted to thank you for this wonderful page that has helped me maintain my sanity throughout Georges. I finally heard from my family this morning, and they reported that all is well on the island. There were no fatalities, and it is mostly a clean-up process now. They are heading back to work today. Because it hit during the day, I was told it was harder to take because they had to listen to the winds and could actually watch what was happening outside. However, because the hurricane had downgraded to a 2 by the time it got there (instead of the 4 it started out as), the damage was minimal. Again, my gratitude to you for being the link to the islands that I so desperately searched for when little news was forthcoming from the media. R-
Date: Wed, 23 Sep 1998 16:36:40 -0400 From: Ray Allen (firstname.lastname@example.org) Subject: ATT Dear Gert, Just talked with Mr. Jarad Doughtry of ATT on St. Thomas and was told that long distance service will go through if you dial three times or so. He indicated that it should be fully operational by midnight tonight. Donna Allen
Date: Wed, 23 Sep 1998 13:56:40 EDT From: JHENRY41@aol.com To: email@example.com Subject: No Subject [...] I have been pressing redial on my phone every 10 minutes or so since last night and this morning at about 9:30 your time she picked up the phone...was shocked that it worked as they are not able to get calls out at all. She lives in fortuna estates, southwest part of island...no electricity yet either, but safe, just a little scared....only damage to their place was a shutter blown off and trees down. I am forever thankful to you and those who posted messages re: St. Thomas. God Bless You. Bobbie Henry (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Wed, 23 Sep 1998 12:45:24 -0400 From: Jacqueline Chapel-Hardy (email@example.com) Hi there. I am on St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin islands. We had a problem with AT&T. They did not provide a backup system during the storm, therefore we lost all (long-distand and internet) contact with the outside world. St. Thomas sustained minimal damage. Mostly to foliage and water damage to homes and structures. Local phone service stayed up throughout the storm and most electricity should be restored by today or tomorrow. I got electricity early yesterday afternoon. Cruise ships should return to the island on Friday. The ports were officially open on St. Thomas withing the past 30 minutes. No deaths associated with the storm. Cannot comment directly on St. Croix, but they did get more damage to their infrastructure than St. Thomas. We are praying for Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic as the had many deaths and much destruction.
Date: Wed, 23 Sep 1998 09:36:40 -0500 From: cgcra (firstname.lastname@example.org) Subject: St. Thomas Gert, this page has been a blessing. After going through Hugo in 89 on St. Thomas, I know how devestating these things can be. The aftermath is the worst, and we were not able to contact anyone stateside for days. I didn't hear anything from my brother and his wife on St. Croix for weeks, and not knowing is the hardest part. I stumbled upon your page strictly by accident by typing in "Hurricane Georges" not really expecting to find anything, but lo and behold there you were! CNN and the Weather Channel gave great reports on where he was going, but not where he had been or what he had done. Finally received word this morning regarding my friend in St. Thomas who has lost her roof twice, once in Hugo, once in Marilyn. She was without power for 8 mos. after Hugo, and 6 mos. after Marilyn. But this time she "weathered the storm" just fine. She lives on Scott Free, for those of you who are familiar with the island. It was so comforting when your positive reports began coming in! God bless you. Greg Crafts
Date: Wed, 23 Sep 1998 07:59:07 -0400 From: Jane M. Garrant (email@example.com) Gert, you don't know what a lifesaver and source of encouragement your page was when I finally stumbled on it last night. My fiance lives in St. Thomas and I hade been unable to contact him until late last night (23 September, about 0030). What he told me was that island comms weren't lost until about 5pm on Tuesday afternoon---the problem at this moment is the AT&T lines, preventing most calls from going through. Indeed, he was shocked when his phone rang and it was me as his phone didn't even have a dial tone!!!!!! The island sustained far less damage than anyone predicted, with many businesses reopening today, as he was heading to work this morning. Power's been restored to much of the island **not him, of course** and things are slowly returning to normal. It was possible for me to get through to him about six times, with patience and persistence, as we kept getting cut off for no apparent reason. **The redial on my phone will never be the same** I'll continue to keep trying to get through to him and with some lunk, communications will be restored today sometime, as well as power. If anyone wants to e-mail me about this, please feel firstname.lastname@example.org. Good luck to everyone, my prayers are with you!!!!! Jane
[Tue, 22 Sep 1998 23:51EDT] - Good news. People who have been following Father José Antonio Oquendo-Pabón's live updates, will be delighted to hear that his sister Ana Oquendo Pabón finally got through to him. She writes the following:
I finally was able to find out that Father Josť Antonio is alright in St. Thomas. I checked his e-mail for him and the amount of messages from ALL over is overwhelming. A lot of people worried about their families and him since they have seen no further reports since that update when his power went out. He is hoping to be back on-line tomorrow if power is restored. He would appreciate it if you could put up a one-liner saying that he is fine and that he will answer as much as he can and contact their families for them. [...] Thanks for your page, GERT. It helped people during a hard time. Myself, included. Although, when that power went out........... My best to you, Ana
Date: Tue, 22 Sep 1998 22:05:07, -0500 From: MR ROBERT M GOLDBERG (Robert_Esq@prodigy.com) Subject: St. Thomas I just spoke with an employee of the Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort in St. Thomas, as well as my in-laws. They were surprised by my call. The employee said they have been unable to contact the mainland. They experienced some damage but apparently everyone is OK. The guests are eating from boxes. They have no television but the resort has its own power.
Date: Tue, 22 Sep 1998 19:13:04 -0700 From: mareee (email@example.com) Subject: Hurricane Georges - St. Thomas, USVI I received a phone call from my daughter today, Tuesday, Sept. 22,1998, from St. Thomas, USVI.† She informed me that there is not too much damage, they were able to drive from Frenchtown to Wintberg with no problem.† They have no electric yet, and the stores are open.† She said Georges was no comparison to Hugo and Marilyn. We are all very grateful for that!††††† firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Tue, 22 Sep 1998 15:12:40 -0700 From: Kailash Samtani (email@example.com) Subject: St. Thomas update I just spoke to family on St. Thomas - they said everything is OK, no major damage Some trees & telephone poles down, still no power or telephone (I don't know how I got thru!) Flooding along Waterfront, but nothing like Marilyn! Thank God! Reported sustained winds of about 70MPH. Curfew lifted this morning, state of emergency remains in effect. Airport expected to reopen tomorrow. Hope this bring some comfort to others anxiously awaiting news about loved ones back home. Kailash Samtani
Date: Tue, 22 Sep 1998 17:50:47 -0400 From: Joseph Rogers (firstname.lastname@example.org) Subject: MEDIA ADVISORY MEDIA ADVISORY SEPTEMBER 22, 1998 - as of 1:30pm CONTACT: LoŠn Sewer - Public Relations Officer (202) 226-7974 Virgin Islands Congresswoman Donna Christian-Green announced today that her Washington, DC office will continue to provide updates on the status of the United States Virgin Islands following the wrath of Hurricane Georges on Monday. The office which remained open during the past 24 hours has been fielding calls from Virgin Islanders and former residents across the U.S. mainland. According to reports during a midday briefing with FEMA: THE U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS HAS SUSTAINED MINIMAL DAMAGE IN GENERAL AND THERE ARE NO REPORTED DEATHS, BUT MINOR INJURIES HAVE BEEN SUSTAINED. ST. JOHN SUSTAINED MILD DAMAGE BUT NO FERRY SERVICE BETWEEN ST. THOMAS AND ST. JOHN THERE IS COMMUNICATION BETWEEN THE ISLANDS NO LONG DISTANCE AND CELLULAR TELEPHONE SERVICE BUT AT&T IS SENDING A TEAM TO ASSESS DAMAGE; PROJECT SERVICE BY TOMORROW DEPENDING ON AMOUNT OF DAMAGE NO ELECTRICITY, BUT THE LOCAL POWER COMPANY IS ASSESSING THE DAMAGE RADIO STATIONS HAVE REMAINED IN OPERATION ROADS ARE PASSABLE HOSPITALS AND GROCERY STORES ARE OPERATING WITH MINIMAL DAMAGE BOTH AIRPORTS AND PUERTO RICO AIRPORT ARE UP AND RUNNING. ST. CROIX'S AIRPORT IS ONLY TAKING DAY FLIGHTS. Congresswoman Christian-Green says that her office will remain open 24 hours as long as there is no telephone service to the Virgin Islands. ALL CALLS SHOULD BE DIRECTED TO THE OFFICE OF REP. DONNA CHRISTIAN GREEN AT 202-225-1790.
Date: Tue, 22 Sep 1998 16:40:59 -0400 From: LJ Schottle (email@example.com) Subject: St. Thomas, Possible Encouraging News I heard today from a villa management company that "According to FEMA both St. John and St. Thomas received minimal damage, no power lines down, airport is open, ferries are running. St. Thomas took down the cellular towers before the storm and they will be back up no later than tomorrow according to FEMA." FEMA's web site, http://www.fema.gov/hu98/98258.htm, states: Early reports indicate several deaths on Puerto Rico and some building failures, but less damage than expected on the U.S. Virgin Islands. Preliminary damage assessments are being made today. LJ in Washington D.C.
Older updates have been moved to this page.
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