Our governor in all his wisdom has decided that the National Guard soldiers from the US who had brought us some MREs (food, or at least food-like substances) and bottled water no longer will be needed. The grocery stores now are beginning to open up again, but there is almost no food on the shelves, and we are unable to refrigerate food or to do much cooking or washing up. This poor decision seems to be another premature “mission accomplished” announcement. Of course, all the local farmers’ fruit and vegetable crops are gone. The local fishermen have been warned not to go out in the local waters, because of all the sewage overflow that has run off into the sea.
Overall the destruction and devastation in Saint Croix are almost too extreme to imagine. Most houses lost at least part of their roof (although mine stayed on); federal assistance is to be anticipated from FEMA, but after almost three weeks, nothing has been done, and the contents of any damaged house will be a total loss, as we have had a lot of rain since the two hurricanes.
Some of my neighbors are just about crazy with the destruction and the lack of help from outside. A desperate man with a hand gun showed up at the local watering hole a few days ago. Nobody got shot, and the police eventually showed up and arrested him. I was a coward and hid behind a post. More of these incidents surely will take place as people become more desperate.
The drawbacks of being an island
When natural disasters take place on the mainland, truckloads of skilled workers with tools and materials are on their way to the disaster site almost immediately. Our airports were closed to all but military flights for evacuating hospital patients and disabled people (our hospitals were totally destroyed) until this past Thursday, when the first regular flight took place. The Coast Guard has kept our main container port closed, as they have found several sunken containers right around the main pier, which will not allow any large ships to come in to dock. The roads are beginning to get cleared of the great tangle of power lines, phone lines, broken off poles, and broken off trees that have been blocking all large and small roads. This is being done almost entirely by private citizens who have chain saws, bobcats, and muscle. Public Works has done a bit of it on the main roads and downtown, but many people still basically are trapped in their neighborhoods.
What I have been able to achieve
I spent several days working on cutting up the trees that were all over the road going by my house, with a small bow saw. Sure wish I still had my chain saw which I gave up long ago when I left Washington state. About 70 trees used to live in my yard; now all are down, either chopped off or uprooted by that giant with a giant machete who took a trip through the yard. This wreckage plus the electrical wires that were ripped off the poles and thrown hundreds of feet over to land on my deck and in my yard and in neighbors’ yards have led most people to see that this was one of the small tornadoes that exist inside a Category 5 hurricane.
More about the hurricanes themselves
We are told that Irma (a category 5 as well) was the most intense hurricane in the Atlantic (since people have been measuring these things) at 186 mph. Maria was “only” about 175 mph, but caused so much more damage because it was a direct hit, and because it had two eyes at the time it went through Saint Croix. A large storm can have one eye wall collapse and another one form. This process just happened to be taking place as it was going through Saint Croix.
One more tidbit, and I shall close this
During Irma, all the Saint Thomas radio stations were destroyed, including my favorite NPR station. Just recently it was repaired enough to go back on the air. This is the first news from the US and from the world that I have heard. Not a mention of the US Virgin Islands or of Saint Croix. Lots of talk about Puerto Rico, I suppose because PR is geographically and demographically much larger than we are. PR did not experience Irma, and Maria was “only” a category 4 hurricane when it came through PR. Saint Croix was hit by both hurricanes, two weeks apart. Whatever damage can be seen from photographs or videos in PR, the situation is about ten times worse here, but we have no means of communication to tell the world about our situation.