O’Neale’s Transport Inc., a logistics and delivery company on St. Croix, wants residents to prepare early for the hurricane season.
The company, in partnership with Crowley Maritime, Home Depot, Cost-U-Less, FEMA, VITEMA and the Office of Disaster Recovery under the Office of the Governor, is sponsoring “Partners in Preparedness,” a free educational hurricane preparedness event from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. The event will be held under a tent set up in the parking area of Home Depot.
“I organized the event to disseminate info to the community on how to properly prepare for the hurricane season,” said company owner Keith O’Neale Jr., son of the late Keith O’Neale Sr., who started the company in 1969. “I grew up in St. Croix, and I have always been involved in community service.”
In 2019, O’Neale’s Transport Inc. celebrated its 50th anniversary. It’s the first time the company is sponsoring a hurricane preparedness event. Over the years, the younger O’Neale has donated turkeys during the holiday season to nonprofits including My Brother’s Table in Frederiksted, and sponsors the Lew Muckle Steel Orchestra among community service projects.
O’Neale, who has served on the Public Finance Authority Board for more than a decade, said that over time he has met “a lot of people in the public sector working on hurricane recovery, and a lot of people from the private sector, who have solutions.”
“I decided to leverage my connections and connect the public sector with the private sector. I remember [Hurricane] Maria, and I know that people really need information and education on what do before, during and after a hurricane,” he said, recalling the logistical nightmare of getting supplies and equipment following the twin Category 5 hurricanes Irma and Maria. Saturday’s event will feature three representatives each from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency as well as representatives from the Office of Disaster Recovery.
All will be available to answer questions and distribute information during the daylong event.
Residents who show up to learn about hurricane preparedness will have a chance to sign up for VI ALERT — a system that provides potentially life-saving alerts by VITEMA regarding weather events, tsunami, and earthquakes. Those who sign up will automatically be entered into a raffle to win a 6500-watt easy start portable generator by Ryobi, courtesy of Home Depot, one of the sponsors of the event. Crowley, a shipping company that O’Neale’s Transport has partnered with for many years, is another sponsor, O’Neale said.
There will also be other prizes and giveaways, including hurricane tracking maps and preparedness check lists. Organizers will have balloons and coloring books on hand for children, O’Neale said.
The Atlantic hurricane season officially began Tuesday and lasts through Nov. 30. The Virgin Islands is on the main pathway of many hurricanes that rage through the Caribbean. In 2017, Hurricane Irma on Sept. 6 and Hurricane Maria on Sept. 20 caused greater damage on St. Thomas and St. Croix, respectively.