A Government House briefing Thursday afternoon provided information about Tropical Storm Tammy and addressed additional concerns facing the territory, including lead that was found in the water across portions of St. Croix.
Regarding Tropical Storm Tammy, Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. and Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) Director Daryl Jaschen assured the public that the territory is prepared for potential impacts this weekend from the cyclone.
“On the forecast track, the center of Tammy will move near or over the Leeward Islands on Friday and Saturday. The maximum sustained winds are about 60 mph, with higher gusts. A gradual strengthening is expected during the next few days, and Tammy is forecast to be at or near hurricane intensity when it moves near the Leeward Islands,” Jaschen explained.
Several islands across the Lesser Antilles are currently under severe weather alerts. However, as of Thursday afternoon, no tropical storm or hurricane watches or warnings have been issued for the USVI and Puerto Rico, and it appears that the storm may pass to the northeast of the U.S. territories, avoiding a direct hit. Still, significant rainfall may occur, resulting in flash floods and mudslides. Most importantly, the storm track can change at any time, and it is vital to be prepared.
On Thursday, the U.S. Coast Guard set a “Port Condition ‘X-RAY’” for seaports across the USVI and Puerto Rico.
“Coast Guard Captain of the Port San Juan set Port Condition X-RAY at 2 p.m. Thursday, for all seaports in the U.S. Virgins Islands and Puerto Rico due to the possibility of gale force winds (winds greater than 39 miles per hour) from Tropical Storm Tammy arriving within 48 hours,” according to an update from the USCG on Thursday afternoon.
“Ports and maritime facilities are currently open to all commercial traffic and all transfer and cargo operations may continue while Port Condition X-RAY remains in effect,” the update continues.
Boaters and ship operators are urged to monitor Tropical Storm Tammy and follow weather updates from the National Hurricane Center as they become available.
Bryan mentioned that activities related to the USVI-BVI Friendship Day scheduled for this weekend will be postponed because of the storm. Residents are encouraged to stay informed about any additional cancellations that may occur.
“Let’s prepare for the worst and hope for the best, and make sure that each one of us is exercising caution and remaining safe as we traverse through the territory this weekend. Stay informed, listen to your radios, stay tuned to [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] NOAA sites, and, of course, listen to the voice of VITEMA Director Daryl Jaschen. He’ll be keeping you updated as we move along. Your safety is priority number one,” Bryan noted.
“Pay attention, [because cyclones] are unpredictable. [The National Hurricane Center] shows a projected track, [but the track] may change course at any time,” cautioned Bryan. “Remember, the time to get ready is now. That assures you that your family is safe, and you have the time to get ready and help somebody else if needed.”
Bryan also stated that – weather permitting – operations to dislodge the “Bonnie G” cargo ship will continue. The ship became wedged on a reef off St. Thomas earlier this month. The US Coast Guard and Director Jaschen are collaborating on efforts to remove fuel from the ship and secure the vessel.
St. Croix Water Quality Update
Bryan also addressed concerns about lead in the water supply across Estates Diamond, Castle Burke, Colquhoun, and Mon Bijou on St. Croix.
“I understand the concerns raised, and I want to assure you that we are taking this matter very seriously,” Bryan said. “Initial readings on Saturday indicated high and elevated levels of lead and copper in these areas. It is crucial to note that the concerns are isolated to these neighborhoods,” he continued.
Bryan explained that flushing the water lines and continually conducting water tests are top priorities. Results from additional tests are expected to be available by Sunday or Monday, and testing and re-testing will be conducted to confirm findings and identify the source of the issue.
“We want to make sure that we either confirm or refute the initial readings that we [received] on the testing. We are committed to providing accurate information and remaining as transparent as possible,” Bryan stated. “I want to stress that we have never, never found lead in our water before, and there are no lead pipes, to our knowledge, in the entire system. This gives us a reasonable level of assurance that we don’t have a long-standing problem, if any.”
Bryan and Jaschen provided two hotline numbers for the Department of Health for issues pertaining to the water quality situation. The two hotlines are open Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.: 340-712-6299 and 340-776-1519.
The Department of Planning and Natural Resources has also set up a hotline for information regarding water sampling. The hotline is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The phone number is 340-514-3666.