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USVI braces for future

BY LYNDA LOHR | U.S.V.I. | August 24, 2000

Hurricane Debby, only a category one storm, made a direct hit on St. John and St. Thomas, but winds in

most areas failed to reach hurricane strength. There were no reports of property damage, and only

trees at higher elevations lost some of their leaves. St. Croix escaped unscathed.

"I thank the Lord we have come through okay, but we are a long way from hurricane season being

over," said Alvis Christian, deputy director at the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency.

Hurricane season runs from June 1 until Nov. 30. Historically, September has been the worst month for

the arrival of hurricanes, but in 1999, Tropical Storm Jose visited in October and Hurricane Lenny in


However, even a category one hurricane takes its toll. Residents spent hours boarding up their homes,

securing their lawn furniture and shopping for canned food, water and flashlight batteries in case the

hurricane turned out to be a major disaster.

"You have to prepare for a minor hurricane the same as you do for a major one," St. John resident

Robert Charleston said.

Charleston, a carpenter, lost two days pay. He spent the day before the storm boarding up his house

and preparing his boat rather than working. And, of course, no one except emergency crews went to

work the day of the hurricane.

Even if they were inclined to go out in the wind, businesses were closed thanks to a curfew imposed by

Gov. Charles Turnbull as a precautionary measure. He lifted it at the end of the day, but few people

ventured out in the driving rain that intermittently hit St. Thomas and St. John.

The biggest blow came to the territory's tourism-based economy. Some visitors left the island, but

others couldn't get airplane seats or preferred to stay. Those that remained spent the day in shuttered

hotel rooms or vacation villas. At the upscale Caneel Bay Resort in St. John, the staff supplied the guests

with picnic hampers filled with enough food to last for the hurricane's duration.

Shopkeepers, restaurateurs, tour operators and taxi drivers lost revenue when cruiseships scheduled to

call in St. Thomas and St. Croix rerouted their ships to avoid Debby.

Despite the financial losses, residents counted their blessings that Debby was no more than a minimal


"Frankly, we were very lucky," Tourism Commissioner Rafael Jackson said in a news release issued as

the storm passed.

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