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VI Deals with Clouds, Rain and Wind as Dean Passes South

Aug. 18, 2007 — Residents awoke Saturday morning to blue skies and very brisk winds, but by afternoon the outer bands of Hurricane Dean brought clouds, rain and high surf to the Virgin Islands.
"There's an outer band over St. Croix. You'll be getting it in about 20 minutes," Brian Seeley, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in San Juan, told a St. John-based reporter around 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
He was right. Just after 3 p.m., heavy rains began to fall. At Ajax Peak's Weather Station Zephyr on St. John, one-third of an inch of rain fell in just a few minutes.
The territory dodged the bullet when it came to Hurricane Dean. Early forecasts from the National Hurricane Center in Miami suggested the storm's path would bring it close to the V.I., but the storm stayed farther south in the Caribbean.
Alvis Christian, V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency director on St. John, said the entire territory fared well.
"There was no flooding and no major debris," he said.
Weather station Zephyr reported a peak wind gust of 32 mph at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.
Stronger winds than experienced on St. Thomas and St. John appear to have hit St. Croix.
St. Croix resident Bob Goodier said winds didn't reach tropical storm strength but were stronger than the brisk winds often experienced around Christmas.
His wife, Chris Goodier, said her house was filled with little bits of leaves thanks to Hurricane Dean's winds.
"Everything is shredded outside. There's lots of stuff in the driveway and the walkway," she said, referring to foliage.
She said the power went out three or four times on Friday.
Reports from St. Thomas indicated choppy seas with a thick coat of kelp on the water in front of the Alexander Farrelly Justice Complex on the Charlotte Amalie waterfront.
Chris Goodier said she was concerned about her brother's house in the Cayman Islands.
"He just rebuilt after Ivan," she said, referring to the 2004 hurricane that devastated much of the Caymans as well as Jamaica.
According to the most recent data from the hurricane center, Jamaica has a better than 60 percent probability of hurricane-force winds, while the Cayman Islands' chances are about half and half.
As of the 5 p.m. update Saturday by the NHC, Hurricane Dean was 455 miles east-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica. Forecasters expect it to close on Jamaica Sunday as a Category 5 storm, making it an extremely dangerous hurricane with winds over 155 mph. The current wind speed stands just shy of that figure at 150 mph with gusts to 185 mph.
"I feel for those people, they're directly in the way," VITEMA's Christian said.
Christian and meteorologist Seeley both said this storm should serve as a reminder to Virgin Islanders that the hurricane season is rapidly building to its usual mid-September peak.
"It was a great wakeup call to measure our response," Christian said.
Dr. Joseph deJames, who works at Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center on St. John, said that while the center routinely evaluates its disaster preparedness, the Hurricane Dean threat put them through their paces again.
"It was kind of a lockdown," he said.
St. John resident Al Smith, shooting the breeze with deJames at the Cruz Bay post office, said too many people let disaster preparations languish until a storm is on the way.
"I check my generator every three months," he said.
While VITEMA was in "stand up" mode for the storm, the V.I. Health Department operated on a similar system while Hurricane Dean passed to the south, Health Commissioner Designate Vivian Ebbesen-Fludd said Saturday.
She said the department called staff at the hospitals and clinics to find out their needs to strengthen the local emergency response system.
"We both walk this road together. We're responsible for the territory's health," Ebbesen-Fludd said.
Hurricane season still has more than three months to go. It ends Nov. 30.
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