A recent assessment of privately owned homes across the territory showed that the damage from what became Hurricane Otto wasn’t enough to trigger Federal Emergency Management Agency funding for individuals, V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency Director Mark Walters said.
“It’s not even close,” he told the nearly two dozen member of the Rotary Club of St. John at their meeting Friday.
It was held at a Westin Resort and Villas conference room near the ballroom because the usual meeting place, the Beach Café, suffered damage in Otto. It, along with other parts of the Westin, is in the midst of refurbishment.
Walters didn’t have the figure for the threshold at his fingertips.
According to Walters, for an individual house to qualify as damaged, it must be uninhabitable.
“Mud, trees down, power off doesn’t count,” he said.
Hurricane Lenny in 1999 was the last time the territory met the threshold for individual assistance, Walters said.
In recapping this hurricane season’s events, Walters said that Hurricane Earl, which hit Aug. 30, caused significant damage to the territory’s electrical system. He said St. Thomas, in particular, was hard hit. Otto caused major damage to the territory’s roadways and drainage systems.
He didn’t focus on Coral Bay, St. John, but Coral Bay Community Council President Sharon Coldren said that in addition to the mudslides along Centerline Road that occurred during and immediately after Otto, a section on the inland side of Centerline Road near Ajax peak collapsed early Friday.
Walters’ remarks focused on the improvements made to VITEMA under his watch. He talked at length about the V.I. Alert program that lets VITEMA notify residents via land line and cell phone, email, fax, and text about disasters. Walters said that over 3,000 families registered to be notified if a disaster occurs or is on the way.
“You’re going to add one more tonight,” Rotary Club member John Fuller promised, inferring that he planned to sign up.
VITEMA expects to add a feature that will allow the agency to notify everyone who gets their cell phone signals from specific towers, Walters said.
Walters also discussed the extensive improvements to the territory’s 911 emergency call number. It now comes under the VITEMA umbrella. Walters said that about 30,000 calls are received each month the St. Thomas/St. John district and a similar number in the St. Croix district.
A tsunami warning system in in the works, Walters said. American Signal Corp. will install wireless sirens that are capable of both voice and tone warnings throughout the territory. When the Alaska Tsunami Center issues an alert for the Virgin Islands, the sirens would automatically activate.
“We expect to begin this project by the end of the year,” Walters said.