23rd SEPTEMBER, 2019 — Good evening to all the people of the Virgin Islands.
As you are aware, the Territory and our neighbours in the USVI and Puerto Rico remain under a tropical storm warning. Based on the current forecast, this means that tropical storm conditions are likely to occur within the Territory in less than 12 hours.
Over the past few hours I have been reviewing the information the Department of Disaster Management has shared from the forecasters. We saw significant variances in the forecasts, however what is clear is that while Tropical Storm Karen was downgraded to a tropical depression, this system carries the potential to bring considerable rain to the Territory from as early as Tuesday morning. This is a time when you would ordinarily be dropping off your children at school or commuting from the Sister Islands to work or school. This concerns me.
As the Territory is under a tropical storm warning, our national disaster management plan requires legally that we make certain decisions to protect the lives of our people. Bearing all this in mind, the Premier and I took the decision to activate the NEOC from 8 pm today, 23 September 2019 and implement a staggered approach to the closure of the public sector. I announced earlier in my broadcast that schools will be closed on Tuesday, 24 September 2019.
Based on the information from the 11pm update, we are advising that only workers from essential services and critical government departments including Information Technology, waste management, public works and social care providers will report for work on Tuesday, 24 September 2019.
With the great uncertainty of the amount of rainfall and following our legal obligation, we must adopt a “better safe than sorry” approach. All the data says we should be concerned about flooding and landslides. I am strongly urging the private sector to make a decision about working hours that is in the best interest of their employees and in the spirit of my message.
Although a decision was made to stagger the closure of the public service on Tuesday 24 September, current conditions do not require us to implement a Territory wide curfew at this time.
Please continue to monitor your local media as well as the websites of Government and the DDM, where we will continue to issue bulletins as needed.
Thank you in advance for your continued vigilance and ongoing preparations. I ask you to continue to do this as a Territory while we continue to take a consistent approach to managing hazard impacts and disasters which involves being cautious, caring, responsible and to always Be Ready.
God Bless you and be safe.