June 9, 2003 – With hurricane season under way, Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards urged residents on Monday to be sure they have adequate insurance protection against windstorm and flood damage.
Such coverage is an indispensable part of hurricane preparations, Richards said in a release announcing that the Banking and Insurance Division plans to hold "several community forums" this summer to address residents' insurance concerns — at dates to be announced.
Meahnwhile, copies of a consumer guide to buying homeowners insurance are available now at the division offices in Nisky Center on St. Thomas and at Nos. 7 and 8 King Street in Christiansted on St. Croix, the release stated.
The homeowners insurance guide covers such topics as filing a claim, smart shopping for coverage, getting price quotations, making sure an agent is licensed, determining how much insurance is needed, and how costs are determined. For more information, call Elmo D. Roebuck Jr. on St. Thomas at 774-7166 or Glendora Matthews on St. Croix at 773-6459.
Richards' announcement came on the heels of an update by hurricane forecaster William Gray of Colorado State University on what to expect this Atlantic hurricane season.
On May 30, Gray upped his forecast to 14 named storms from the 12 he had predicted in April. "The dissipation of El Niño and the anticipated formation of a La Niña in the Pacific are factors leading to the increase," he said in a release.
Gray expects eight of the 14 to become hurricanes. He said three of them are likely to become "intense hurricanes" with sustained winds of 111 mph or more — the same number that he cited in his April report. The long-term average stands at 9.6 named tropical storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 intense hurricanes. Last year saw 12 named storms but only four hurricanes, two of them intense. None hit the Virgin Islands.
Insurance isn't the only thing that should be on residents' hurricane-season shopping lists. If you haven't already done so, now is the time to buy extra batteries, canned food and bottled water. And if you're a boater, it's also the time to decide where you want to take your vessel in the event that a hurricane approaches.
On St. John, Mary's Creek and Hurricane Hole, both in V.I. National Park waters, always see lots of boaters securing their craft. The National Park Service has plans for a hurricane mooring system, but it won't be in place until the 2004 season. Therefore, boaters must still use anchors now to secure their boats.
Beulah Dalmida-Smith, park management assistant, said boaters may not tie up to the mangroves because the lines damage them. Mangroves are an endangered species and are protected by federal and local law from activities that will harm them, she pointed out.
If boaters intend to install sand screws for moorings in park waters so they can better secure their boats, they must get permission from park authorities first. The same is true if anyone wishes to leave an anchor or other marking device to reserve a spot.
Vessels may be moved to Hurricane Hole and Mary's Creek no more than 96 hours before forecasters predict a storm will hit. And they must leave within 72 hours of a storm's passage. Authorities urge boaters not to remain aboard during a storm.
No one could be reached at the Planning and Natural Resources Department for an updated list of safe havens on St. Thomas and St. Croix. But V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency personnel confirmed that Benner Bay Lagoon, Mandahl Pond and Flamingo Bay are designated safe havens on St. Thomas, and that Krause Lagoon and Salt River are so on St. Croix.
As with national park waters, boaters are not allowed into these safe havens until 96 hours before a storm's expected landfall. Further details on rules and regulations were not available.
Hurricane season runs June 1 through Nov. 30; the highest likelihood of storms is in September.
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