While it rained in the fall, the territory didn’t really recover from last year’s drought, National Weather Service meteorologist Felix Castro said.
“It’s a slow process,” he said, adding that it will take a while to improve.
St. Croix is in the worst shape, according to Agriculture Commissioner Carlos Robles, who said while the island has been getting some rain showers, they don’t add up to the amounts seen on St. Thomas and St. John.
“The line of showers is missing St. Croix,” Robles said, adding that the situation is not yet critical and that the department still has water on hand.
It’s clear on St. John that the island hasn’t recovered from the drought.
Rafe Boulon, who retired several years ago as the chief of resource management at V.I. National Park, said the understory hasn’t come back. He said that’s the result of the lack of recovery from last year’s drought coupled with nibbling by hungry deer.
“They’re eating up a lot of seedlings,” Boulon said.
Boulon, whose great-grandfather was the chief meteorologist at the Weather Service in San Juan in 1905, carries the family gene when it comes to keeping tabs on weather. He’s kept records at his North Shore home for years and said that 2015 wasn’t the driest in his records.
Last year recorded a total of 35.87 inches of rain, while 1994 had only 27 inches. However, Boulon said that 2015 had months where it was extremely dry and 1994 had what rain fell evenly distributed throughout the year.
According to Boulon, 2016 is starting out dry. He said January had 1.68 inches of rain but the average is 3.12 inches.
So far this February, .53 inches fell. The average for the entire month stands at 2.06 inches.
Boulon, who is also a home farmer, said last year’s drought cost him a lot of his fruit trees including mangoes, avocados and limes.
Josephine Roller, who owns Coral Bay Garden Center, said her produce gardens are getting enough water because she has a well. But she said since no one can predict what’s ahead when it comes to rain, she’s being conservative with how she waters.
Roller also does landscaping and said that the island’s plants suffered because they didn’t get the usual soaking rains that come in May. She said they need that deluge to get through the summer, adding that irrigating just doesn’t do the job because it’s just “drip, drip, drip.”
St. Thomas did get a soaking rain last May, and Diana Egger at Bryan’s Plants and Landscaping said the island isn’t experiencing a drought.
“We’re getting a shower here and there,” she said.
Though it’s dry, Egger said she keeps the plants doing well because they have a well.
A St. Thomas farmer, who declined to give her name, said that so far, she’s set for water since she stockpiled it when it was raining.
On St. Croix, farmer Grantley Samuel said there’s been no “serious” rain for two months. However, since his small crop farm is located on Agriculture Department grounds, he can access its water supply.
While the water isn’t falling from the sky, Samuel said it’s actually a benefit because without rain, the insects don’t thrive and the weeds don’t grow. He said when the weeds don’t grow, he doesn’t have to hire help to pull them out. And no insects mean he doesn’t have to spray.
“It’s a blessing and a curse,” he said of the lack of rain.
Roller had some advice for home gardeners. “Flood your plants once a week.”