Isaias spares territory of heavy damage, 'dry-run' for future storms

High winds on St. Croix at 12:05 a.m. Thursday toppled scaffolding near the former Harvey’s restaurant in Christiansted, making the road impassable.

Bouts of rain and gusty winds from Tropical Storm Isaias largely spared the territory of any real damage or destruction, according to Gov. Albert Bryan Jr., who on Thursday called the storm a “good dry run” for a hurricane season forecast to get worse.

Addressing the public in a Thursday morning weather update, Bryan said he lifted a territory-wide curfew — originally set to expire at noon — by 6 a.m. after road crews gave him a final go-ahead. Government employees resumed work at 10 a.m., while employees who traveled by ferry to work were excused for the day.

The seaports were closed as of Thursday night, as the U.S. Coast Guard continued to assess conditions.

Both airports in the territory are open.

Despite initial forecasts of 3-6 inches of rainfall, Isaias appeared to bring more wind than moisture, much to the chagrin of residents looking to have their cisterns filled.

“Lot of people are still complaining that they needed some rain in the cisterns,” Bryan said. “We did not see the rainfall we anticipated, although we are thankful that God has granted us his grace and allowed us to pass through this first event for the year.”

The Virgin Islands remains under a Flash Flood Watch through this morning, according to the National Weather Service, with additional rainfall between 1-3 inches and isolated amounts of up to 5 inches possible due to “trailing bands and plumes of moisture.”

Isaias, which only became a tropical storm Thursday night, is expected to push westward and bring tropical storm conditions to the Dominican Republic, Haiti, the Turks and Caicos and the southwest Bahamas today and later the Florida panhandle by Saturday.

Government response

Government agencies said preparations and response efforts for Isaias, the first local storm of the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season, went well.

“We did not face any significant issues during this storm,” said DPW spokesperson Renee Exius. “It was uneventful and we are grateful for that. Commissioner [Nelson Petty Jr.] indicated that we conducted our usual preparations and will continue to be vigilant. Staff was on standby and ready to address the roadways as soon as it was safe to do so.”

A news release from the V.I. Water and Power Authority on Thursday stated that the power plants at Estate Richmond and Krum Bay “fared well in the storm event with no interruptions to power production.”

Sporadic feeder outages did lead to several isolated service interruptions in both districts. Crews completed planting new utility poles and transferring lines in the Golden Rock area of St. Croix and work on trouble calls will continued through Thursday night, according to the release.

“These outages are routinely caused by primary service lines slapping against each other, trees intermittently contacting power lines or tree branches and limbs coming to rest on the service lines,” said WAPA Chief Operating Officer of Electric System Clinton Hedrington Jr.

“In either scenario, an electrical fault is detected and the feeder is tripped to protect the grid and prevent surges from back feeding into the power plants.”

WAPA Chief Operating Officer of Water System Noel Hodge reported no potable water service interruptions during the passage of the tropical storm.

“The system in both districts did well, our pump stations remained online and service was not impacted,” Hodge said.

WAPA Executive Director Lawrence Kupfer said the utility will take a second look at storm operations, review any lessons learned and “tweak our emergency operation plans accordingly.”

Isaias, in addition to being the first storm of the local season, was also the first storm to hit Virgin Islanders amid a pandemic.

As such, congregate shelters were not open and sandbags were not distributed in advance of the storm due to concerns over gatherings of individuals and the potential spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Bryan said sandbags are normally not handed out for unnamed storms and begin only with Category 1 hurricanes.

He added that he will be announcing a protocol for sandbag distribution soon.

— Contact A.J. Rao at 340-714-9104 or email ajrao@dailynews.vi.