Hurricane cleanup begins

BY LYNDA LOHR | St. Croix, U.S.V.I. | November 23, 1999

Gloria Trotman was listening to her daughter, Nelita, 16, play Chopin's "Polonaise" on the piano when Hurricane Lenny

whipped off part of the dining room roof of her Estate Glynn, St. Croix home on Nov. 17.

"It was terrifying. We were not expecting this to happen," she said.

When the 10-by-15 foot section of roof went, the house got very bright, she said, and it soon felt like the hurricane raged inside

as well as out.

The family toughed out the 150-mph winds for a bit, but as soon as they slowed down, they sought refuge at a neighbors.

Trotman's home is now protected by a tarp donated by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency.

The Rev. Oriel Fleming said that the agency was ready with tarps, wood, and nails to cover roofs damaged by Lenny. He said he

knew his agency would have to be quick to respond, adding that he's had four requests for tarps.

While St. Thomas and St. John suffered damage to trees when high winds hit, St. Croix and St. Martin bore the brunt of the

unusual late-season hurricane. It surprised residents who had already put away their hurricane shutters and started eating up

their easy-to-prepare hurricane food.

Lenny, unlike most storms that hit the Caribbean, came from the west rather than across the Atlantic from the east. Forecasters

predicted that the hurricane would score a direct hit on St. Thomas and St. John. A bobble to the south put it 35 miles south of St.

Croix, an island devastated in 1989 when Hurricane Hugo hit. It was slammed again in 1995 with Hurricane Marilyn.

New and more strictly enforced building codes have forced residents to rebuild their homes to better withstand hurricanes,

which saved many homes from damage this time.

Marty Savard at Lutheran Social Services said that most relief agencies are still evaluating what the needs will be.

"The damage is not as extensive as we originally thought, but there are pockets of real damage," she said.

She said an American Red Cross survey showed that 28 homes in St. Croix were totally destroyed, with another 42 suffering

major damage. Another 100 had minor damage. Damages were estimated at $31.5 million, with $23 million of that figure

attributed to beach erosion, a serious problem for a tourism-based economy that touts its white, sandy beaches.

Julio Rios at Catholic Charities said the agency's Bethlehem House shelter is prepared to take in families left homeless by the


"We're expecting one family this afternoon," he said. While the situation has improved since Lenny hit St. Croix, many residents

are still without power.

"I've got the generator on," the Rev. Rafael Quinones at Iglesia Methodista Hispana said.

He said an apartment building adjacent to the church lost its galvanized metal roofing, but the sub-roofing remained intact.

As of Nov. 22, several sections of St. Croix remained without power, but the V.I. Water and Power Authority has just about

completed repairs in St. Thomas and St. John. "We had telephone all the way through," Fleming said.

While schools in St. Croix will remain closed until next week while repairs are made, those in St. Thomas and St. John opened

Nov. 19. "Things are beginning to get back to normal," Fleming said.

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