A very pleasant day to you the people of the Virgin Islands.
Though we may not welcome it, the Atlantic Hurricane Season is once again upon us. This means that as happens every year between the 1st of June and the 30th of November, we and the rest of the Caribbean are at an increased risk for storms and hurricanes.
While forecasters advise us to brace for a busier than average season, as the people of the Virgin Islands already well know, it only takes one storm to impact us and therefore, we must be prepared.
With the memories of what we faced five short years ago still fresh in our minds, I urge all of us to recall what we learned during the fateful 2017 season and since. Whatever you wish you had done then, rally your families, coworkers, villages and communities and do it now because TOGETHER WE CAN BE READY.
Taking stock of the road to recovery from the devastating impacts of Hurricanes Irma and Maria bears out this truth. Close collaboration between the Government of the Virgin Islands and the Recovery and Development Agency has brought us a number of redeveloped roads and public buildings from Anegada to Jost Van Dyke. The full list is long, but I would highlight the works done at the Road Town Police Station, repairs to administration buildings on all sister islands, BVI Fire and Rescue Services Headquarters, the Ballast Bay and Little Dix Hill roads, as well as the improved water reservoirs at Carrot Bay and Long Bush.
I would also highlight numerous recovery projects that are ongoing, again in partnership with local authorities, international funders, and local private contractors, including a new National Emergency Operations Centre, a redeveloped Fish Bay road, a new Market Square in Road Town and the rapidly progressing Elmore Stoutt High School.
Working closely with the European Union and PAHO have meant that key community centres on Anegada that also serve as emergency shelters have been repaired to a high standard and will soon be handed over to us.
Of course recovery would not be possible without the strong backing of our local economic pillars of tourism and financial services. Despite the lingering effects of the pandemic and other uncertainty in our Territory, both these sectors have showed signs of strengthening this year. As global restrictions ease, I look forward to even greater growth in these key areas.
I am proud of the progress we have made since 2017, and I think we as a people should likewise take pride that we not only survived that unprecedented impact, but we came through it wiser and stronger and we are working together to have truly built back a better Virgin Islands.
Please do not let that progress fall by wayside. Rather, let’s do all we can to support our family and community. Now is the time to review and update emergency plans and emergency supply kits. Now is when we should take steps to protect property by inspecting structures, shoring up homes and businesses where needed, and removing hazards from around the exterior. For those who are able, now is also the time to identify vulnerable members of our extended families or villages to see what assistance may be needed. If we find ourselves in need this season, please let’s reach out to employers, neighbours, friends and family members to make a plan for how we might best be able weather a possible storm.
There’s no way to predict what this hurricane season may bring, but we do know that TOGETHER WE CAN BE READY.
Thank you, and may God continue to bless and watch over these beautiful Virgin Islands.
View the video version of this message at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGHE-4CJiMo