Two weeks after the second of two category five hurricanes ripped through the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. John got another link to the outside world, when mail began flowing and FirstBank opened its office on the island Tuesday.
When U.S. Postal Service trucks rolled off the barge in Cruz Bay, people watching smiled. The Post Office itself didn’t open, but mail was handed out from the trucks.
Firstbank had opened its ATM the day before. Tuesday, that ATM wasn’t working, but the office itself was open.
At the Tuesday morning meeting of recovery and relief officials, John Covell of FEMA said he wanted to manage expectations about the Blue Roof program, through which the agency and the Army Corps of Engineers install the ubiquitous blue tarps on buildings that have lost their roofs. When people sign up at the VITEMA office, he said, they have to provide a “right of entry” from the home ower to inspect the property. The team has to assess whether there’s enough damage to warrant a tarp. He also noted the tarps do not work on flat roofs, only on buildings with a pitched roof.
Installing the tarps requires screwing the tarp to the frame of the house, as many as 200 screw holes, and of the frame cannot support it, the installers may recommend another type of repair.
Project planners were still looking Tuesday morning for a place where they can meet homeowners so they can take them up to the property.
Schools, Rumors and Food
While Gifft Hill School was able to open Monday, the Julius Sprauve School in Cruz Bay, like all the other Virgin Islands public schools, remain closed while the Department of Education assess the damages and comes up with a plan for reopening schools and dsitributing students among those acilities that withstood the storm.
Irvin Mason of VITEMA said teachers are starting to report back to Sprauve School, and noted the school has a new generator.
During the morning meeting, Covell quashed a rumor that has been rampant on the island – that the Bloomberg Group –a recovery and relief program sponsored by billionaire Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City – was giving out free generators Nor true, Covell said.
Kevin Smith, one of the managers of Starfish Market in Cruz Bay, said the store had received a shipment of produce. Unfortunately, the perishable food had been shipped before Irma struck the island at the beginning of September, and the perishables perished.
However, the store did have fresh food on the shelves, including hycropoic lettuce, grapes and cherry tomatoes.
Karen Opsahl is rounding up animals left behind in advance of a planned evacuation of these abandoned pets by an internation animal welfate group. because there is an international animal welfare group.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Opsahl said, “Some people totally left their animals behind.
Accordng to Opsahl, in many cases the owners had left the island and left their pets with pet sitters who then lost homes to the storm and have left the islands.
Medical Help from the Go Team
One group of volunteers who have been helping the islands recover is the Johns Hopkins Go Team, a group of medical professionals who arrived on island in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
One of the doctors Christina Catlett, said the group is “a deployable medical asset for Johns Hopkins University.”
They arrived on St. John Sept. 17 as art of the Bloomberg Group’s effort. They hadn’t been on island a week before another storm was on the doorstep.
“Maria surprised us a bit,” Catlett said. She and her fellow Go Team members hunkered down and sheltered in place, “Which put is in a good positon for post-maria relief.”
“Our biggest issue was to provide support to the health care team at Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Clinic,” she said. “They have been working so hard, basically they lived in the clinic for three weeks.”
The clinic staff has since moved to the Morris de Castro Clinic due to storm damage.
Tuesday the clinic received a generator and two air conditioning units. There is some lab capability and the personnel are trying to establish a radiology facility.