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Shelters Open; Schools, Government Offices Closed

Aug. 30, 2004 – Red Cross shelters opened Monday night on St. Thomas and St. John, and the governor announced that schools and government offices will be closed on Tuesday.
Gov. Charles W. Turnbull announced in an 8 a.m. radio address that "the hurricane continues to strengthen and to proceed on a westward path which is projected to bring the storm closer to the territory, especially St. Thomas and St. John, than previously expected."
He noted that while the northern islands were earlier under a tropical storm warning, "as a result of the latest storm report, the National Weather Service has extended a tropical storm watch to St. Croix."
A warning means tropical storm conditions are expected within the next 24 hours. A watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible within the next 36 hours.
In addition to directing Education Commissioner Noreen Michael to close schools on Tuesday, Turnbull said, "I have decided to use caution as a guide and close Virgin Islands government offices throughout the territory to all but designated government employees."
As of 9:30 p.m. Monday, shelters opened at Charlotte Amalie High School and Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School on St. Thomas and at Emmaus Moravian Church on St. John, according to an announcement from Bill Young, American Red Cross of the Virgin Islands director of emergency services.
"Currently no shelters will be opened on St. Croix, but Red Cross emergency personnel are on alert in the event that it becomes necessary to open shelters on that island," a release stated.
Individuals with special medical needs seeking shelter should call Roy L. Schneider Hospital on St. Thomas at 776-8311, Myrah Keating Smith Clinic on St. John at 693-8900, or the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency headquarters on St. Thomas at 774-2244, according to the Red Cross.
The release said those intending to take refuge in the three facilities "are encouraged to go to the shelters early, and not wait until heavy winds and rains start affecting the territory."
Persons intending to stay at the shelters should take with them identification, pillows and bedding, extra clothing, prescription and emergency medications, snacks, hygiene supplies, important documents and "comfort items."
Parents should take along diapers and formula for infants, toys for children of all ages, and special items as needed for elderly or disabled family members. Pets are not permitted in the shelters.
The governor said in his 8 p.m. address that "the storm is expected to pass close to the territory during the early morning hours on Tuesday and last until early afternoon, bringing with it tropical storm winds, heavy rains and sea swells."
All of the territory's law-enforcement officers will operate under the command of Police Commissioner Elton Lewis, Turnbull said, and "all semi-autonomous and autonomous agencies of the government will issue statements on the status of their operations in light of this directive in order to provide for the proper continuity of public services."
The governor advised the general public to "please stay at home and refrain from unnecessary activities such as surfing, sightseeing and traveling on roads that may be negatively affected by the passage of the storm." He called on everyone to "take all necessary precautions to safeguard lives, limbs and property."

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