84.1 F
Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, July 14, 2024


As Tuesday moved toward mid-morning, only occasional showers and gusts suggested that Hurricane Debby was fast approaching St. John. But by shortly before 11 a.m. the storm was passing over the island, moving at 20 to 22 mph.
With the heaviest weather on the north quadrant of the hurricane, the strongest winds were north of the island, and the storm was expected to move on to St. Thomas by noon.
Earlier Tuesday morning, with weather reports indicating that the island would likely get only tropical storm-force winds, while Debby's greater strength would pass over the neighboring British Virgins, some residents were out and about seeing to last-minute hurricane precautions – and at least a couple of tourists were out seeing the sights.
Hansen Bay resident Mary Blazine said that she and her husband, Les Anderson, were out early to finish securing their boat. On the road, around 9:30 a.m., "Two tourist ladies came by in a rental vehicle," she said. "They had smiles on their faces. I stopped them and asked if they had ever been in a hurricane before and they said no. I told them, ‘You had best turn around and head for home.'"
Blazine said she was looking forward to the rain, if not the winds. "We have a waterworks on our property," she explained. "We collect water from the road above and run hoses down through the property. It's not only for irrigation, but to prevent the run-off of soil."
St. John residents spent much of Monday preparing for the approach of what was then Tropical Storm Debby by land and by sea. Many started by heading home early as government offices and businesses closed early in anticipation of rough weather Tuesday morning.
Boaters made their moves early on. Before 10 a.m., dozens of boats were anchored in the island's sheltered harbors, Hurricane Hole and Mary's Point. A fleet of charter boats was reported on the way to Hurricane Hole around 4:30 p.m.
Many St. John residents began their day before the storm with barge trips to St. Thomas to stock up on supplies. On St. John, too, shopping was a priority, with the parking lots full at Starfish Market and a handful of convenience stores.
"Business was good," Starfish manager Myron Allick said. "I was pretty stocked up for this, although we have a trailer coming in Thursday. We have some holes on the shelves."
Popular stock-up items included bottled water and other beverages, batteries, and canned goods, he said.
Cars, jeeps and trucks pulling into O'Connor Texaco and the island's two other gas stations kept the pumps busy.
But by the usual commuter drive-time Monday afternoon, Cruz Bay took on the appearance of a ghost town. The island's only drugstore, St. John Drugs, kept its doors open a little past its usual 5:30 p.m. closing to accommodate customers until a crew came to board up the windows.
Up the road, crews from Vitelco and the Water and Power Authority zipped around checking lines. At VITEMA headquarters on Gifft Hill, St. John Deputy Commissioner Alvis Christian wrapped up the second of two emergency management meetings by 5 p.m. He said plans were proceeding smoothly because VITEMA had been holding monthly preparation meetings.
Residents looking for sandbags would be directed to the fire stations in Cruz Bay and Coral Bay, Christian said. However, a Public Works Department release late Monday afternoon said they would be available at the department headquarters in Susannaberg.
Public Works road crews had deployed vehicles to different ends of the island, and Human Services Department personnel had provided information about elderly and disabled residents who might have to be moved into shelters.
All that remained by mid-afternoon was word from Government House on the opening of emergency shelters and the imposing of a curfew, if necessary. Gov. Charles W. Turnbull subsequently announced that the shelters would open at 6 p.m. and late Monday night issued the territorywide curfew effective at midnight.
Barges maintained a normal schedule until sunset, and ferries ran until 8 p.m. Monday. Delrise Varlack, operations manager at Varlack Ventures, said she expected the ferries to resume service Tuesday depending on the lifting of the curfew.

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