Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. is urging residents to treat a looming disturbance in the Atlantic as a “major storm,” the first potential tropical storm to hit the territory this season and the first ever to strike amid a pandemic.
On Tuesday, as the National Hurricane Center issued a Tropical Storm Warning for the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, Bryan advised the public to “be prepared for the worst,” even as the storm remains “Potential Tropical Cyclone 9,” and not yet Tropical Storm Isaias.
“As we learned from last year, these storms turn quickly from minor skirmishes into hurricanes overnight,” Bryan said. “While we are hoping for the best, we are also prepared for the worst.”
Bryan said he has submitted a request for a federal disaster declaration to the White House in preparation for any potential impact of the storm.
He also advised residents to build a hurricane kit, formulate a shelter-in-place plan and sign up for VI Alerts on the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency website at www.vitema.vi.gov.
VITEMA Director Daryl Jaschen on Tuesday described Cyclone 9 as a “large mass of moist air” moving directly toward the territory at the rate of 23 mph with sustained winds of close to 40 mph.
“Based on the current path, Cyclone 9 should arrive in the territory [today], this evening, bringing increased winds and rainfall between 3-6 inches over a period of 12 hours,” Jaschen said.
The director said VITEMA has been coordinating with local and federal agencies and that hurricane preparation is being adjusted to minimize the local threat to COVID-19.
“Sand and sand bags will not be issued for the storm because we don’t want gatherings of individuals and we don’t have time to prepare an adequate mitigation plan for this particular storm,” Jaschen said.
He added that curfew passes, if necessary, will be issued via appointment only, and that all residents must stay off the roads in the event of a curfew, unless they are directly related to the disaster response, contracting or are providing life-saving services.
The U.S. Coast Guard is scheduled to close ports at 4 p.m. today, or possibly earlier depending on conditions, according to Jaschen.
V.I. Human Services Commissioner Kimberley Causey-Gomez said in order to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the government will not open congregate shelters.
“[We] recommend to shelter in place,” she said.
The commissioner recommended residents maintain a “go-bag” to keep important documents, prescription medication, snacks, diapers and wipes, cleaning supplies, masks and hand sanitizers.
Bryan will update the territory today at 10 a.m. on storm preparations.