Aug. 14, 2007 – Residents and government agencies began to prepare Tuesday for what could be a Category 1 or Category 2 hurricane hitting the area over the weekend.
"It's dicey," Walter Snell, a meteorologist at the National Weather Center in San Juan, said at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Forecasters upgraded Tropical Depression 4 to Tropical Storm Dean at the 11 a.m. update Tuesday.
Snell said that while the models currently have the storm going about 160 miles south of St. Croix at around 2 p.m. Saturday that could change as the storm gets closer.
"The track is still uncertain," he said, adding, by Thursday, forecasters will have a better idea of what track Dean will take and how strong the storm will be.
As of 5 p.m., the storm was centered at 11.6 degrees north latitude and 41 degrees west longitude, or about 1,140 miles east of the Lesser Antilles.
Winds are at 40 mph with gusts to 50 mph. Tropical storm force winds extend outward 35 miles.
It's moving to the west at 20 mph.
The barometric pressure stands at 1004 millibars or 29.64 inches. "It's moving quickly," Snell said.
Alvis Christian, who heads V.I. Territorial Emergency Management activities on St. John, said that residents across the territory should make sure they have their supplies in order.
"Canned goods, water, all those things," he said.
Residents need to have one gallon of water per day for each person, with enough on hand to last three days.
Christian said a three-day supply of non-perishable food should include things like powdered milk, canned juice as well as canned goods.
"Nuts are a good supply of protein," he said while also reminding people not to forget infant and pet food.
His list of hurricane necessities also includes flashlights and a battery-operated radio or television with spare batteries for all equipment.
Christian suggested residents have a first aid kit with a manual, a fire extinguisher for their house and car, lighters or matches, extra clothing, and spare diapers if there are infants in the family.
He said that residents should make sure they have medicines on hand, extra keys stored safely, spare cash and their important papers protected.
VITEMA's director of training, Conrad Knowles, urged residents to remember the elderly and disabled when it comes to hurricane preparation.
"We all have a responsibility to look out for those among use who cannot fend for themselves," he said.
He said residents should meet with household members or caregivers to formulate an emergency plan and add items like hearing aids, batteries, medication and contact information for doctors and pharmacists to the disaster kit.
Knowles suggested that residents obtain medic alert bracelets for elderly or disabled relatives so emergency responders can quickly determine special needs.
And Knowles urged relatives to secure the homes of the elderly and disabled. A plan should be in place to move them out of their homes if necessary.
Additionally, they should provide the V.I. Water and Power Authority as well as emergency responders with information about people who are on life support.
Christian urged residents to clean up around their houses so items don't become airborne when the hurricane winds hits.
The Planning and Natural Resources Department issued a press release Tuesday urging boaters to make preparations.
The department also suggested boaters not plan to stay aboard during a storm but rather find shelter ashore.
According to the press release, Benner Bay, Mandahl Pond and Flamingo Bay are designated safe havens on St. Thomas.
On St. Croix, Salt River is the designated safe haven.
Entry is on a first-come, first served basis. Enforcement officers will be on hand to assist boaters in finding space and to resolve "difficult situations," the release said.
Securing boats to nearby trees is done only when necessary. Proper chaffing gear must be used. Lines must be removed immediately after the storm.
Planning's press release indicates that hurricane anchors may remain for the entire season as long as a mooring ball with a registration number is attached.
Hurricane Hole on St. John, which is under the jurisdiction of V.I. Coral Reef National Monument, is the designated safe haven for that island.
Carrie Stengel at V.I. National Park said Tuesday that boaters may begin moving their boats to Hurricane Hole 96 hours before a storm is expected to hit. She said that by her calculations, that means Wednesday is the day for boaters to move into Hurricane Hole.
She said that hurricane chains are in place in Borck, Princess, Otter and Water Creek, all small bays within Hurricane Hole.
Stengel said that about 100 boaters have permits to use Hurricane Hole as a safe haven.
"Sixty to 65 are on chains," she said.
She said the rest will drop anchors.
Stengel said that boaters who do not have permits can still get them by calling her at 693-8950, extension 240.
Christian said shelter locations and sand bag distribution will be announced as the storm nears.
Robin Clair, who manages Estate Zootenvaal vacation cottages on St. John, said she was already in hurricane preparation mode.
"We have to prepare as if it's coming," she said.
She said she has a hurricane plan that includes bringing in the outdoor furniture, taking the screens off and making sure the cottages are secure.
As if that wasn't enough, Clair is also an organizer of the St. John Kids and the Sea program. She said she's got to make sure all the boats are moved to a secure location and the KATS youths are notified that Saturday's programs will be cancelled.
Christian said that even if the storm veers away from the Virgin Islands, it will serve a tune up for what could come during the rest of hurricane season.
"They're going to come constantly off the coast of Africa. Better safe than sorry," he said.
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