Just days after VITEMA Director Mona Barnes explained to senators why the territory is unprepared to handle another storm when the Caribbean is in the peak of hurricane season, a tropical depression in the east Atlantic whipped itself up into a hurricane in the last 24 hours.
A number of forecasts show Hurricane Isaac possibly impacting the U.S. Virgin Islands, but even the people who study hurricanes for a living don’t know what to make of it.
The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration — NOAA — issued a “key message” with its 11 p.m. updated forecast files on Sunday.
“Isaac is a small hurricane and uncertainty in the forecast is higher than normal. Although Isaac is forecast to begin weakening by Tuesday when it approaches the Lesser Antilles, it is still expected to be at or near hurricane intensity when it reaches the islands,” according to the advisory.
NOAA’s National Hurricane Center 11 p.m. forecast shows St. Croix within Isaac’s “cone of probability,” but the storm center still was about 1,400 miles from the USVI at press time, and its path remained uncertain.
St. Thomas and St. John were just outside the Hurricane Center’s 11 p.m. cone.
On Saturday, the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency released a list of shelters, information that Barnes and her lieutenants — VITEMA Director of Operations Denise Lewis and VITEMA Acting Assistant Director Renata Christian-West — were unable to provide Thursday during testimony before the Senate’s Homeland Security, Justice and Public Safety Committee.
Those shelters are at St. Croix Educational Complex, Claude O. Markoe Elementary School, Frederiksted Head Start, Central High School, and D.C. Canegata Complex on St. Croix; Lockhart Elementary School, Charlotte Amalie High School Auditorium, Bertha B. Boschulte Middle School and Knud Hansen Complex (STRIVE) on St. Thomas; and at Julius Sprauve School on St. John.
At press time, The Daily News was unable to determine the readiness or status of the shelters listed.
On Sunday, VITEMA issued a press release saying it is monitoring Isaac and urging residents to make an emergency plan that includes pets; stock up on supplies; and “stay informed about weather systems that may impact the USVI using credible sources of information.”
The National Hurricane Center issues reports throughout the day at https://www.nhc.noaa.gov.
In its 11 p.m. forecast update on Sunday, the National Hurricane Center put Isaac’s center about 1,300 miles east of the Windward Islands. At that time, the center reported that Isaac was packing sustained winds of 75 mph and is headed west about 14 mph.
The current tracks show Isaac heading into the central Caribbean Sea, with some models showing a track similar to that of Hurricane Irma in 2017.
The forecast predicts that Isaac will increase in strength, possibly losing some intensity once it passes over the Lesser Antilles islands.
“A westward motion is forecast to continue through the end of the week, with Isaac expected to move across the Lesser Antilles and into the eastern Caribbean Sea Wednesday night or Thursday,” according to the 11 p.m. forecast.
Depending on a storm’s severity, the National Hurricane Center’s forecasts and graphic updates are issued at 2, 5, 8 and 11 a.m. and p.m.