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State of Emergency Declared in Advance of Omar

Oct. 15, 2008 – As the territory prepares for Hurricane Omar, public schools are closed, government workers are going home at 10 a.m., a curfew begins at 6 p.m. Wednesday, and peace officers are deputized to augment Police Department officers, Government House said in a 5 a.m. press release.
The territory is now on a hurricane watch.
Hurricane Omar, now a Category 1 storm, will pass over the territory late Wednesday and early Thursday morning as a Category 2 storm with winds of 96 to 110 mph, forecasters says.
"It's going right over St. Croix at around midnight," meteorologist Walter Snell said at 6 a.m. Wednesday.
St. Thomas and St. John should get the worst of it at around 2 a.m. Thursday as the hurricane passes through the Anegada passage.
That said, Snell cautioned that a wobble could change the track and worsen conditions for St. Thomas and St. John.
"If it only moves 10 miles, and it can easily do that; St. Thomas and St. John could be in the center," Snell warned.
The hurricane is moving slowly, which Snell said makes it easier for it to turn.
Government House sent out a press release just after 5 a.m. Wednesday updating residents.
"Based on the latest weather information and the projected track of Hurricane Omar, I have decided that public schools will be closed on Wednesday for students, faculty and staff. Government workers will report at their regular time and non-essential employees will be dismissed at 10 a.m. territory-wide," Gov. John deJongh Jr. said.
DeJongh said that based on guidance from the National Hurricane Center that suggests that tropical storm force winds will be felt beginning Wednesday evening, he will impose a 6 p.m. curfew in both island districts on Wednesday.
Police Commissioner James Mc Call said once the curfew is imposed only persons with valid curfew passes and on official government business will be allowed on the streets.
"We will vigorously enforce this curfew as it is necessary that we clear the streets and avoid persons becoming injured by the effects of a tropical storm," McCall said.
Mc Call also asked that all peace officers report to meetings in both St. Thomas and St. Croix at 2 p.m. Wednesday. The St. Thomas meeting will be held at the Superior Court Assembly Room while the St. Croix meeting will be held at the Rainbow complex in Frederiksted.
DeJongh signed a State of Emergency proclamation on Tuesday night which not only authorizes a curfew but deputizes all territorial peace officers as law enforcement officers to augment the manpower strength of the Virgin Islands Police Department.
In addition, the proclamation authorizes and directs the Licensing and Consumer Affairs Commissioner to impose a price freeze and restricted sales order in a move to protect consumers of the Virgin Islands during the period of emergency.
The governor has also signed an order placing the V.I. National Guard into territorial active military service.
“This order will allow the adjutant general to mobilize any units of the VING necessary to restore public order and to guarantee the safety of life and property," deJongh said.
DeJongh spent much of Tuesday in discussions with FEMA Director David Paulison, members of a Federal Emergency Management Agency advance team and local officials discussing the level of preparedness in the territory and aligning any relief efforts that may become necessary in the aftermath of Hurricane Omar. A pre-landfall declaration was signed which would facilitate immediate federal assistance to the territory should such relief become necessary in the storm’s aftermath.
"As a territory, we have experienced these storms before and have fared well. We are a resilient community. I encourage everyone to continue to pray that our islands may be spared the wrath of this strengthening storm system," deJongh said.
The Human Services Department in conjunction with the American Red Cross are preparing for an opening of shelters on all islands at noon Wednesday.
"We will open the St. Croix Educational Complex, the Charlotte Amalie High School on St. Thomas and the Bethany Moravian Church on St. John," Human Services Commissioner Chris Finch said.
Finch emphasized that all persons coming to shelters should bring enough food that does not require cooking for their families for at least 24 hours. Diapers, medicines and any other personal items needed should be brought to the shelter as well as toys or games to entertain young children.
The Public Works Department is distributing sandbags on all three islands. On St. Croix, the distribution points are the Public Works Department in Annas Hope, the Cotton Valley Fire Station, the Grove Place Fire Station and the entrance of Estate Concordia. On St. Thomas, sandbags are being distributed at the Public Works Department motor pool and on St. John at the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management office in Susannaberg.
The Planning and Natural Resources informs the boating community that safe havens have been established. On St. Croix at Salt River and Princess Bay, 18 moorings are available. On St. Thomas, the safe havens are Benner Bay and Flamingo Bay. On St. John, the safe havens are Hurricane Hole and Borck Bay. St. John boaters must first obtain authorization from the National Park Service before utilizing the moorings on St. John.
Internal Revenue Director Gizette Thomas said that the Oct. 15 filing date for all taxpayers has been extended to Monday, Oct. 20.
Damage assessment teams comprised of local and federal officials will be deployed in the aftermath of the storm to assess damage and determine the most immediate needs of the territory.
Tropical Storm Omar became a hurricane at the 11 p.m. Tuesday update.
The territory should expect light rain throughout the day, with conditions starting to go downhill on St. Croix at about 7 p.m. and on St. Thomas and St. John at about 10 p.m.
"But you could get rain bands sooner," Snell said.
Rainfall is expected to reach five to 10 inches, with storm surge one to two feet.
"And the temperature could get into the low 70s," Snell said.
As of the 5 a.m. Wednesday update, Hurricane Omar was packing winds of 75 mph and gusts to 90 mph. Hurricane force winds extend out 15 miles, with tropical storm force winds reaching out 105 miles.
The storm was centered at 14.6 degrees north latitude and 67.7 degrees west longitude. The barometric pressure stood at 985 millibars or 28.08 inches. This puts the center of Hurricane Omar about 248 miles southwest of St. Croix and 285 miles southwest of St. Thomas.
The storm was moving northeast at 7 mph.
Flash floods and mudslides are expected across the territory.

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