Aug. 31, 2004 – It was a blissfully boring end of August. And Virgin Islanders couldn't have asked for anything more.
After an intense two days of anticipation, tempered by the realities of Hugo, Luis, Marilyn, Bertha, Georges and even little Lenny, now already five years gone, precious few residents complained of having prepared for Tuesday's threat that never materialized.
Not many prepared as much as they might have. Relatively few homes were boarded up despite the posting of a hurricane watch for St. Thomas and St. John at 11 p.m. Sunday.
But by the end of the day Tuesday there were no reports of loss of power or telephone service, and Government House said the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency at of 5 p.m. had received "no information on damage" but "only reports of moderate rain showers."
At mid-morning, a fair number of folks on St. Thomas were shopping at Tutu Park Mall, tipped off by announcements on radio stations that it was open for business — although a number of tenants were not. There were no customers at C G's Barber and Beauty Salon, but the owner was there, watching a television set tuned to weather reports.
Outside, a taxi driver had no more pressing priority than giving his daughter a driving lesson.
Around noon, the Sub Base Pueblo Supermarket on St. Thomas was doing a brisk business with 11th-hour stockpilers of water, batteries, canned goods and the like — saying they wanted, after all, to be safe and not sorry.
At Hull Bay, a favored surfing site on St. Thomas's North Side, three boarders were out trying to catch the waves on Tuesday afternoon. Around the bend at West Caret Bay, the surf was rough and wild but without takers.
At Trunk Bay on St. John, several surfers were out on their boards, according to Steve Clark, V.I. National Park chief ranger. A lone swimmer ignored the directions of a lifeguard and entered the water but didn't stay in for long, he said.
In downtown Charlotte Amalie there was little traffic. And yet no homes were boarded up in Frenchtown and no fishing boats had been carted over to Joseph Aubain Ballpark, their traditional parking space when stormy weather is on the way.
According to a Roy L. Schneider Hospital staff member, it was a normal day there, in fact a little quieter than normal.
Several airlines had announced on Monday that they would not be flying into or out of the St. Thomas and St. Croix airports on Tuesday, but both Cyril E. King and Henry E. Rohlsen remained open. Meantime, Seaborne Airlines had its amphibious aircraft landing on and taking off from the St. Thomas and Christiansted harbors without interruption.
What did get interrupted — and without warning, at least to some — was ferry service between St. John and St. Thomas. A Coral Bay resident arriving at the Cruz Bay dock to catch the 6 a.m. boat found the pier abandoned. About a dozen ferries and barges had been rafted up at the Creek, where the barges normally discharge and take on motor vehicles.
Ira January, a St. John resident who operates the newsstand concession at Cyril E. King Airport, was among those who managed to catch a ride to St. Thomas on the Caneel Bay ferry. On the St. Thomas side, George Lewis did the same in order to reach his job with the Public Works Department on St. John.
On St. Croix, which had been under a hurricane watch from late Sunday but never a more serious warning, skies were clear and bright all day. Wind gusts seemed nothing out of the ordinary — not more than 20 mph at the most, according to a weather report.
Some residents said the governor was correct to "use caution as a guide" in deciding on Monday evening to close government offices and schools on Tuesday. Others were heard to complain that it was another waste of taxpayers' money.
Although the Legislature faxed out a statement Monday afternoon citing Senate President David Jones as saying "the Virgin Islands Legislature will be closed on Tuesday," it turned out that was only half true. In fact, only the St. Thomas offices were shut down. St. Croix central staff personnel put in a full days' work on Tuesday, as did many St. Croix senators' employees.
For many who didn't have to go to work, the day was an opportunity to observe nature's awesome power and even beauty without fear. Clark said a number of people on St. John drove to lookouts on the North Shore and just parked and watched the drama at sea unfold from afar.
Editor's note: Source personnel Judi Shimel, Molly Morris, Tammy Kramer, Shaun A. Pennington, Lynda Lohr and Michelle Dominique contributed to this report, written by Jean Etsinger.
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