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Hurricane Season

Emergency Shelters Identified and Shelf-Stable Foods Procured as USVI Prepares for the Hurricane Season

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Storm damage in St. Thomas during Hurricane Irma in 2017. (Photo by VI Consortium)

As the Virgin Islands government advances billion-dollar hurricane recovery projects initiated in 2017, residents brace for an above-normal 2024 Atlantic hurricane season, with forecasts predicting four to seven major hurricanes. Senator Kenneth Gittens convened a meeting on Wednesday with the Committee on Homeland Security, Justice, and Public Affairs to review preparedness plans. Daryl Jaschen, director of the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA), emphasized the importance of proactive planning.

Reflecting on the 2017 hurricanes, Jaschen lamented past complacency among residents and urged serious preparation for the upcoming season. He highlighted the necessity of considering senior citizens, ensuring medication availability, and caring for pets. “We don’t want it, but we want to be prepared,” he stated.

A significant improvement in this year’s preparations is the prepositioning of FEMA-supplied shelf-stable water and meals, sufficient for ten days, within the territory. Unlike in 2017, when supplies were stored in Puerto Rico, these resources are now readily available. If necessary, food supplies will be distributed from various points of distribution (PODs) five days after a federal disaster declaration. Residents are advised to maintain a personal emergency stash for at least five days, as immediate distribution may not be possible.

VITEMA plans to operate two PODs per district, each capable of distributing up to 5,000 meals daily. These PODs will function until normal food supply chains are restored and ATMs are operational. Distribution sites will provide two meals and three liters of water per person per day.

The five-day lead time for distribution stems from the logistics of receiving and processing FEMA supplies. Jaschen warned residents not to expect immediate assistance post-storm, as it takes time to activate PODs. Road clearance is also a prerequisite for POD operations.

The exact locations for the PODs remain undecided, causing concern among legislators. Senator Gittens emphasized the need for pre-identified locations to facilitate easier access during emergencies. Jaschen responded that the final POD sites would be determined based on post-storm assessments.

The V.I. Department of Human Services (DHS) is also preparing for potential hurricane impacts. Community Affairs Coordinator Yvette Henry reported that DHS, with FEMA, the American Red Cross, and local partners, has inspected and identified several evacuation shelters. In St. Croix, the St. Croix Educational Complex and the David C. Canageta Recreational Complex are designated shelters. St. Thomas shelters include the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School’s gym and cafeteria and the Lockhart Elementary and Junior High School. St. John shelters are the Adrian Senior Center and the Gift Hill School. There is no listed shelter for Water Island for 2024.

DHS, along with the V.I. Department of Health, is ensuring shelters can meet the needs of vulnerable populations, including accommodations for service animals. DHS continues to identify additional shelters, with lawmakers urging the selection of easily accessible locations for all residents.

The V.I. Department of Public Works (DPW) is focused on stormwater management, tree pruning, sandbag distribution, route clearance, and infrastructure restoration. Assistant Labor Commissioner Rueben Jennings noted DPW’s readiness to assist in supply distribution if required. Lawmakers stressed the importance of drain maintenance to prevent flooding and debris blockage. DPW has begun assessing the stormwater drainage system and will continue these efforts throughout the hurricane season.

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Hurricane Season

FEMA Urges Virgin Islands Residents to Update Emergency Plans as Hurricane Season Begins

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As the Atlantic hurricane season commences, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is urging U.S. Virgin Islands residents to brace for what is expected to be an above-normal season. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has predicted between 17 and 25 named storms for 2024, underscoring the importance of readiness in the region.

FEMA is stressing the necessity of updating emergency communication plans to enhance safety and reduce the stress associated with approaching tropical systems. It is crucial for residents to revisit and revise their plans, ensuring all family members are well-versed in the procedures to follow if a storm threatens the area.

FEMA’s key recommendations include:

  1. Plan Review and Update: Families should reassess their emergency plans, taking into account any changes over the past year. It’s essential that every member understands their role and the actions to take during an emergency.
  2. Communication Strategy: Designate a family member outside the territory as an emergency contact. This person can serve as a central point of communication for relatives and friends if local channels are disrupted.
  3. Accessible Information: FEMA provides an emergency communications plan template to document vital contact and medical information for each family member. This template is also available in Spanish, making it more accessible to a broader audience.

In addition to updating plans, FEMA advises residents to conduct practice drills. These drills help ensure that everyone knows how to communicate effectively and reunite if separated during a storm.

For more details and to access the emergency communications plan template, residents can visit FEMA’s website or contact the local emergency management office. Being prepared can significantly reduce the risks and anxiety associated with hurricane season in the Caribbean.

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Hurricane Season

DLCA Urges Price List Submissions Ahead of 2024 Hurricane Season

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As the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season commences, the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs (DLCA) is urging businesses in the U.S. Virgin Islands to submit their hurricane price lists by June 1. This measure aims to protect consumers from price gouging during emergencies and ensure essential supplies remain affordable and accessible.

DLCA Commissioner Nathalie Hodge underscored the significance of these submissions, which are required monthly until the season concludes on November 30. The regulation affects retailers, wholesalers, and providers of vital services such as food, water, medical products, and construction services. The initiative focuses on items critical for hurricane preparation and recovery.

Non-compliance with these regulations can result in fines up to $200 per item or service sold in violation of the law. Businesses can access a sample price list form on the DLCA website and submit their lists via email to [email protected].

This call for price list submissions follows a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecast predicting an 85% chance of above-normal hurricane activity this year. The Climate Prediction Center anticipates 17 to 25 named storms, with 8 to 13 likely to become hurricanes, including 4 to 7 major hurricanes.

The heightened hurricane activity is linked to near-record warm ocean temperatures, La Niña conditions, and reduced wind shear, all of which contribute to a favorable environment for storm development. Additionally, a robust West African monsoon may enhance the strength and sustainability of storms crossing the Atlantic.

NOAA is enhancing its forecasting and communication capabilities to better serve the public during hurricane threats. New technologies and updated operational strategies will be employed, including expanded Spanish language advisories, an experimental inland storm threat graphic, and advanced data collection tools like Saildrones.

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Hurricane Season

Anticipating a Stormy Horizon: 2024 Forecast Signals Unprecedented Hurricane Season

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Forecasters from the Colorado State University Tropical Meteorology Project have issued a stark warning for an “extremely active” Atlantic hurricane season in 2024. The convergence of transitioning El Niño to La Niña conditions, alongside historically high sea surface temperatures in the eastern and central Atlantic, sets the scene for an alarming uptick in hurricane formation and strength.

The forecast, unveiled on April 4, anticipates a remarkable total of 23 named storms, with 11 escalating into hurricanes, and 5 of those reaching the major hurricane status of Category 3 or higher. This prediction starkly exceeds the 30-year averages, setting a foreboding expectation for an Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) Index of 210 and a Net Tropical Cyclone Activity (NTC) of 220%—figures that far surpass long-term norms.

More concerning is the increased likelihood of major hurricanes making landfall. The United States’ coastline and the Caribbean are notably at risk, with predicted probabilities of a major hurricane touching down leaping to 62%, 34%, and 42% across various regions. This signifies a 66% chance that the Caribbean will experience the direct impact of at least one major hurricane, marking a significant rise from historical averages.

The final analysis underlines a near 60% surge in named storms and a 52% and 56% increase in hurricanes and major hurricanes, respectively, over the 1991–2020 averages. Such projections represent a substantial climb from the typical ACE Index of 123 and NTC of 135%, highlighting an expected season of heightened storm activity.

This foreboding outlook is the product of a robust statistical model, refined through over four decades of data, and corroborated by forecasts from leading global weather agencies. The unanimity among these models underscores the severity of the upcoming season.

Central to these predictions is the shift from El Niño, which typically suppresses hurricane formation through increased vertical wind shear, to La Niña conditions. La Niña favors the opposite scenario—reduced wind shear and warmer Atlantic temperatures, setting an ideal stage for hurricanes to form and intensify. This transition is crucial for understanding the anticipated increase in hurricane activity, as El Niño and La Niña play pivotal roles in shaping global weather patterns, particularly influencing the Atlantic hurricane season.

With this forecast, coastal dwellers are urged to brace themselves for the months ahead. The CSU team’s emphasis on preparedness highlights the reality that it only requires a single landfalling hurricane to unleash significant devastation. As such, the 2024 hurricane season calls for heightened vigilance and readiness from those in potentially affected regions.

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