July 18, 2004 With a chance of a hurricane hitting the Virgin Islands higher than usual this year, St. Croix residents Saturday picked up hints on how to be prepared.
The V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency and several local disaster preparedness agencies presented a hurricane preparedness exhibit at Sunshine Mall. Hurricane season began June 1. The most active month, generally, is September. "Historically, hurricanes occur in September and October but some have been known to occur as early as June and as late as November," said Elroy Harrison, VITEMA deputy director said.
In April, Colorado State University forecaster William Gray gave a prediction of higher than usual activity for 2004. According to Gray, 14 named storms would form in the Atlantic basin. Of these, he predicted eight would become hurricanes, with three of those escalating into intense hurricanes with winds of more than 111 mph. See Forecaster Sees Active Hurricane Season Ahead.
It was evident that Virgin Islanders had first hand knowledge of the devastation caused by hurricanes as about 500 people browsed literature, watched informational videos and asked questions about preparing for a hurricane during the three-hour event.
Sunshine Mall and VITEMA sponsored the exhibit. Andy Wartenberg, the mall's marketing director, said he wanted to make the mall a focal point for community information and activities. Several other government and private agencies and businesses were on hand to explain their role in helping during a disaster.
Carl Christensen, of the Small Business Association, distributed information on low-interest loans for people whose homes or businesses were damaged by wind or flood waters.
In the wake of recent hurricanes, many people have taken advantage of the loans, which have an interest rate of 2 percent. However, he advised home and business owners to make sure their insurance payments were up to date. "If you had a previous SBA loan, its very important that you keep up with the payments."
Sgt. Felicita Joseph of the V. I. National Guard recruiting office said the VING is activated by the governor. "We were called out in Hurricane Hugo and Marilyn," she said. Joseph said the VING assists after a storm, in the reconstruction phase. "We remove debris, like telephone pole and trees, from the roadways, repair schools, distribute MREs (meals ready to eat) and provide safe drinking water."
The Red Cross provides a host of services before, during and after a disaster. Red Cross Disaster Chairman, Marla Matthews said the organization sets up shelters, conducts disaster welfare inquires, provides medical assistance and mental health support. The organization can help families assemble a disaster supply kit and give them information on what to do when a hurricane warning is issued. They also have literature on protecting your home from wind damage.
Electricity and telephone service are often interrupted by a hurricane. Fire Inspector Marcellimo Ventura gave some tips on cooking safely without electricity. "People wanted to know the different methods of extinguishing a fire." Ventura said. Many people go back to cooking on coal pots and they are not used to it, he explained. Ventura also stressed that families should install smoke detectors and check to make sure they are working properly. Fire service personnel also demonstrated the proper installation and use of a generator.
If you are concerned with keeping in touch with your clients and family after a hurricane, Orbitron communications may have the answer, says owner Marvin Forbes. Forbes distributed information for voice satellite phone and data services. This system circumvents the local infrastructure and lets your business do business as usual.
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