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No Rain in Sight as Territory Faces Impending Drought

The territory’s hillsides tell the story of a winter with minimal rain. They’re brown, with swathes of green in the valleys where scant rain fell. Rafael Mojica, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in San Juan, called conditions abnormally dry.

“That’s the beginning stages of a drought,” he said.

Additionally, fire danger is high because of the low humidity, Mojica said.

However, Mojica said that historically, rains start again sometime in April. That said, he indicated there isn’t much rain in the immediate forecast.

“Those little showers that happen at night or in the morning, don’t amount to much,” he said.

The Weather Service totals show that at Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas, 1.32 inches of rain fell in January, 1.5 inches in February, and 1.28 inches in March. All were below normal, but the February figure was only .01 inches under.

At Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix, Mojica said that .49 inches of rain fell in January.

“That was the driest January on record,” he said.

Normal for January is 2.16 inches of rain.

In February, .73 inches of rain fell at the St. Croix airport. March was right on normal with 1.80 inches of rain.

At Weather Station Zephyr, located at Ajax Peak, St. John, January had .49 inches of rain, February, .39 inches, and March, .71 inches.

Things are so dry, that the V.I. Water and Power Authority advised some of its St. Thomas potable water line customers to conserve because its water reserves are nearly depleted.

WAPA spokesman Cassandra Dunn said customers in Kirwan Terrace, Lindbergh Bay, Contant, Anna’s Fancy, Altona, Solberg, Upper Savan, Agnes’ Fancy, Frenchtown Upper Hospital Ground, Berg’s Home, Paul M. Pearson Gardens, Estate Thomas, and Tutu High Rise will experience reduced or total pressure loss from 9 a.m. to 5 a.m. daily.

“Those who are at higher elevations may have no pressure,” Dunn said.

WAPA will provide normal operating pressures to the affected customers from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. daily. Water service will be maintained at all schools until 5 p.m. each day.

Dunn said that St. Croix does not have the same problem. It’s happening on St. Thomas because two units at the St. Thomas plant are under repair.

WAPA urged customers are to use their cistern water when possible.

Conservation is critical. WAPA provided the following tips:

–Don’t run water continuously while brushing teeth, showering, washing and rinsing dishes, or rinsing fruits and vegetables.
–Recycle rinse water to water plants and wash cars.
–Don’t use running water to thaw foods.
–Only run clothes washers when full.

In previous years WAPA had trouble supplying enough water for truckers to haul to St. John customers. The problem on St. John was particularly acute because guests at the island’s estimated 500 vacation villas don’t practice conservation. However, trucker Henry Boyd said this year, there is no problem with supply; however, that water will cost you.

He said most truckers are charging $365 for 4,200 gallons in the Cruz Bay area. People who live outside of Cruz Bay will pay up to $400 depending on how far the trucker has to haul the water, Boyd said.

Dunn said that WAPA is able to meet truckers’ needs on St. Thomas and St. Croix.

The territory is so dry that Agriculture Commissioner Louis Petersen Jr. sent out a press release in late March reminding farmers that “the dry weather puts their animals at increased risk because dry pastures don’t provide enough protein to keep the animals healthy. They are then more susceptible to worms, ticks and other diseases and may not be able to provide milk for young animals."

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