Aug. 29, 2002 – Well into what so far has been a quiet hurricane season, Tropical Depression 4 formed Thursday morning out in the Atlantic Ocean. While it's too early to know what will happen with this storm, Francisco Dilleste, a National Weather Service program manager in San Juan, said, "some strengthening is possible" in the next 24 hours.
At mid-day Thursday, Tropical Depression 4 had sustained winds of 35 mph with gusts up to 45 mph. If it reaches sustained winds of 39 mph, it will become Tropical Storm Dolly. Should it reach 74 mph, it will achieve hurricane status.
Dilleste said initial projections are that the storm system will move either north or south of the Virgin Islands. "We're at the extreme edge of the cone," he said, referring to the tracking device that indicates the storm's parameters.
The storm was centered at 9.6 degrees north latitude and 32.2 degrees west longitude, or about 635 miles southwest of the westernmost Cape Verde Islands. The V.I. coordinates are 18.3 north and 65 west for St. Thomas, 18.2 north and 64.5 west for St. John, and 17.7 north and 64.8 west for St. Croix.
With the height of hurricane season in mid-September fast approaching, Harold Baker, V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency director, warned residents to be prepared. "Get your emergency supplies on hand," he said, putting a battery-operated radio and extra batteries at the top of the list so people can get information if the power is down. He also advised that residents learn the location of the closest emergency shelter, stockpile extra medications, secure important documents against the elements, and have a plan to make sure their family members and pets are secure in case of a severe storm.
Chris Angel, a St. John resident with a house and boat, has been ready for hurricane season since Hurricane Hugo hit in 1989. While he said he's not nervous, he has some concerns about his Gifft Hill house. "It's 30 years old and made of wood," he said. Because of safety concerns, if a tropical storm or hurricane hits, his wife, Elsa, their dog, Roxie, and two cats, Joker and Tristan, will ride out the storm at a friend's house. Angel himself, contrary to advice given by officials, plans to spend the storm on his boat in St. John's Hurricane Hole.
The 2001 hurricane season, like this one, was on the quiet side, with five tropical depressions and tropical storms having formed by this date. Last year saw a total of 17 tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes, ending with Hurricane Olga in November.
By comparison, in 1995, the year Hurricane Marilyn devastated the territory, a total of 21 tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes were recorded, 13 having formed by this date. They included Hurricane Luis, which formed on Aug. 28, 1995, and provided a taste of what was to come when Hurricane Marilyn hit less than two weeks later.
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