Good day people of the Virgin Islands.
Like many of you, I have been watching the progress of Tropical Storm Dorian over the last few days. At the moment, the storm is located east of Barbados. After having strengthened somewhat overnight, Dorian is now a small tropical storm with maximum sustained winds of near 60 miles per hour. Modelling suggests that Dorian will continue to gradually strengthen and track east and north. It will likely pass closely to the south of the Territory Tuesday overnight at near hurricane strength, bringing squalls and rain. Our neighbors in St. Lucia are under Hurricane Watch, while Barbados, Martinique and St. Vincent and the Grenadines are under Tropical Storm Warning.
It may be tempting to consider this forecast as a miss, or a relief, but even if Dorian does not pass over the Territory directly, I would remind all residents that the BVI may still see impacts from this system. The reality of tropical storms is far more complex than a graphic on forecast map can show. While experts track weather systems as thoroughly as possible, the best guidance they can provide is always focused on the centre of a storm. Tropical cyclones and the wind speeds that they can bring, on the other hand, may extend many miles outside of that centre. Already, Dorian’s winds can be felt up to 45 miles from its centre. If it strengthens as expected, that distance would likely increase. Residents should not be unduly alarmed at this point, but should monitor updates carefully and should stay prepared throughout the season.
Further, we are now in the historical height of the Atlantic Hurricane Season, which means that there is a high probability that after Dorian passes, another system will follow before long. As we all know, nearly all tropical cyclones occur during the hurricane season months of June to November. Historically speaking, September, which is just a few days away, brings the warmest sea surface temperatures and with it, the most storms when compared to other months in the season.
With all that in mind, I urge all residents to diligently carry out pre-storm preparations, including gathering of essential documents in a protected location, reviewing family and business emergency plans, checking on emergency stores and resupplying where necessary. I would especially encourage residents to make time today to inspect their properties, homes and businesses to ensure that if there are any needed preparation repairs or clearing up of debris to be done, that they will have the time to do them before Tuesday evening. I know that for many of you, these preparations would already be well underway.
Although many of us would consider such measures routine, I would also urge all residents to check in with others in their community to make sure that friends, family members and neighbors have also carried out the necessary arrangements to be prepared and stay ready throughout this season.
I can assure residents that the Government has been working hard to do its part to be ready for Dorian and other storms. The Territory’s 27 emergency shelters have been inspected and are standing by in case they are needed. Roadways and ghuts are being cleared to allow for the safe passage of water runoff and reduce the risk of flooding. Backup generators are on-site at key agencies to make sure that all critical services can be up and running quickly after an emergency.
In addition, the emergency communications network has been upgraded and VHF radios have been distributed to key personnel around the Territory, including on our sister islands, to ensure that we can all stay in touch after an emergency. Emergency supplies are stocked here in the Territory, and are ready to be deployed if needed.
Through all this, safety remains a top priority, with our Royal Virgin Islands Police Force and our Fire and Rescue Service officers ready to respond if needed.
Please continue to follow this system closely, and watch the forecast messages for any changes or new developments. Government will continue to do the same, and will continue to disseminate important information as it becomes available through the press as well as its website, the website of the Department of Disaster Management, and their social media channels.
Thank you, and throughout this season stay ready and stay safe.