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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, June 16, 2024
HomeNewsLocal newsPublic Invited to Final Review of New Five-Year Disaster Mitigation Plan

Public Invited to Final Review of New Five-Year Disaster Mitigation Plan

Hazard Plan Co-Director Kim Waddell highlights features of the new V.I. disaster management plan at Monday meeting on St. John. (Source photo by Judi Shimel)

With the start of the 2024 Atlantic Hurricane Season less than a month away, officials working to finalize a five-year disaster management plan want the public to weigh in. The first of a series of town hall meetings took place Monday in Cruz Bay.

The meetings are hosted by the University of the Virgin Islands and the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency. About a dozen people came to Nazareth Lutheran Church on Monday to hear from project managers who’ve worked on the plan since 2018. More participants attended virtually via live stream video.

Two more forums are scheduled for next week May 14 on St. Croix and May 16 on St. Thomas.

Co-Director Kim Waddell said major natural disasters have disrupted life and commerce in the territory in the past. With help from partner agencies and stakeholders, the team has produced guidance on how well the Virgin Islands will be prepared to withstand and recover from the next big disaster.

“The plan development is fairly complex. It’s taken us four-plus years to put this together … We’ve done intense assessments and analyses of the sector series and the hazards. We’ve done the hazard profiles, the risk assessments and the sustainability analyses,” Waddell said.

While averting a natural disaster is impossible, the plan’s architects said they sought ways to reach the shortest path to recovery. “We want to reduce the disaster impact,” he said.

In addition to assessing the risks that arise from storm-force winds, rain-induced flooding, droughts, and the impact of earthquakes, “HMRP provides a road map for the territory to mitigate, adapt, and quickly recover from the impacts of new types of hazards associated with climate change,” said language found on the meeting announcement.

One of the emerging threats is heat driven by climate change; researchers note that St. Croix saw its highest recorded temperatures in 2023. Concerns are also rising for the arrival of compound disasters where more than one type of natural hazard presents itself at the same time.

“A hot, dry future is something we are thinking about,” said Plan Development Co-Director Gregory Guannel. “This sort of confluence of hazards is something we have to think about when we think about climate change.”

Every five years, U.S. states and territories are encouraged to submit to FEMA new plans detailing their anticipated response to natural disasters. This improves the chance that appropriate disaster assistance will quickly arrive.

Organizers also announced the website address where the Hazard Mitigation and Resilience Plan can be viewed in its entirety and the start of a 30-day public comment period during which residents and business owners can log their questions, suggestions, ideas, and concerns.

“The plan is online for your review,” Guannel said.

Holding town meetings is one of the compliance steps plan developers must take to comply with federal government requirements. As the public reviews the plan over the next 30 days, a plan administrator said FEMA and Government House are also giving their final review before the V.I. Hazard Mitigation and Resilience Plan becomes the playbook for handling disasters for the next five years.

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