Despite continuing intermittent rain and wind gusts from outer reaches of Hurricane Lenny, a curfew in effect, and a plea by Public Works Commissioner Harold Thompson Jr. to sit tight, hundreds of Crucians were out and about Thursday morning supermarket shopping, topping their tanks and cruising the roads and highways.
The Sunshine Supermarket outside of Frederiksted opened its doors at 7 a.m., and two hours later there were "at least 50 people, including one police officer," inside stocking up on charcoal, bottled water, medications and other needs, WRRA newscaster Herb Schoenbohm told WSTA/Lucky 13 in a call-in from the site.
Also, he said, the nearby Mini-Mart and Sion Farm filling stations were pumping gas, and there were cars traveling on the Queen Mary Highway.
Police, Public Works and V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency officials were not amused.
By 10 a.m., Schoenbohm, whose own station was off the air, called Lucky 13 back, this time from the Ville La Reine shopping center, to say that police had set up numerous roadblocks in the interim. He said he was stopped six or seven times on the Queen Mary Highway as he traveled eastward from Frederiksted.
At 10:25 a.m., Gov. Charles W. Turnbull called WVWI/Radio One to announce that he was keeping the curfew in effect "until further notice" on St. Croix, but was staying with his Wednesday night decision to lift it for St. Thomas and St. John as of noon today. Even so, he urged residents on these two islands to stay at home and off the roads "unless it is absolutely necessary," so as not to impede the efforts of Public Works and utility employees clearing the roads of downed trees, lines and debris.
The governor gave continued high winds and hazardous roads on St. Croix and the continuing stall in movement by the rogue hurricane west of St. Martin as his reasons for keeping the curfew in effect on St. Croix.
Turnbull, whose numerous comments on national network radio and TV programs in the last three days have been rebroadcast locally, told Radio One this morning that reports of hurricane-related deaths on national media concerned incidents in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. "There have been no reports of death in the territory," he said.
At St. Croix VITEMA headquarters in Hermon Hill, Elroy Harrison, deputy director for operations on the island, said teams coordinated by Public Works began fanning out across the island at 8 a.m. today making assessments of hurricane damage and needs. He said the teams were expected to return by around noon to make their initial reports.
Police Capt. Jeremy Swan, who is also emergency services coordinator for VITEMA, said his impression was that Lenny's impact on the island was "somewhere between Hurricanes Hugo and Marilyn." However, he added, there did not appear to be widespread damage to homes, public buildings or roads, "and mitigation had a lot to do with it."
Hazard mitigation — the preventive procedure of rebuilding "safer, stronger, smarter" under a beefed-up building code enacted in the aftermath of Hurricane Marilyn — was one of the prime focuses of the Federal Emergency Management Agency after that hurricane devastated much of the territory in 1995.
Swan said Col. Gene Walker, VITEMA commander, was still on St. Thomas this morning but was expected to fly over to St. Croix as soon as a helicopter was available out of Puerto Rico.
At the St. Croix American Red Cross office in Castle Coakley, staff member Marjorie James said volunteers were getting organized into teams to go out into the field today to make the agency's first damage assessment on St. Croix in the aftermath of Hurricane Lenny.
Residents remained in the Red Cross-managed emergency shelters at the Educational Complex and the Pearl B. Larsen School, James said. Those who had to be evacuated from the Claude O. Markoe School when the windows were blown out during the height of the storm Wednesday were taken first to the Frederiksted fire station and then to the Education Complex, she said.
Reports continued to be conflicting about damage to the Ann Abramson Pier in Frederiksted. "The pier is intact," Lt. Gov. Gerard Luz James II said in a call to WSTA from St. Croix around 8:30 a.m. What observers were seeing from Strand Street, he said, were poles that had been lifted out of the water and hurled onto the pier and a large buoy and rocks.
There had been earlier reports that the outer end of the pier had been destroyed and that the breasting dolphin installed off the end of the pier to accommodate large cruise ships had been badly damaged. Later, an observer called the station to say that while the end of the pier appeared intact, a 15-foot section between the land end and the parking area was "gone," as was a roll- on/roll-off ramp. While ships could dock, the caller said, the damage would severely "affect passengers coming off and going on."
James also said there were reports of significant damage to homes in the Frederiksted area "from Prosperity to Hamm's Bluff," and that police had apprehended an individual behaving suspiciously around several unoccupied homes. The Juan F. Luis Hospital reported only minor injuries, he said.
North Shore resident Lisa Giorgi said she had a wider and deeper view of her Cane Bay neighborhood now than she did at the time of Hurricane Hugo, and this morning "There were no homes with roofs missing that I could see — and after Hugo, I could see a lot of them."
One thing that struck Giorgi as curious was Lenny's impact on local flora. "After Hugo, everything was barren and brown," she recalled. A stand of large trees to the west of her home "were dancing in the wind yesterday," she said, and this morning she looked out to find "the west half of each tree still green, the east half brown."
The island's largest employer, HOVENSA, which had closed down operations on Tuesday, called employees back to the "next day shift" once the curfew is lifted.


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