Good morning to all. I’d like to begin this message by thanking you the people of the Virgin Islands. Even though we closed out yesterday with a degree of uncertainty about what Hurricane Jerry might bring, many of you heeded the advice of the Department of Disaster Management and my “better safe than sorry” mantra and you utilised yesterday afternoon and evening to replenish your emergency kits. You reached out to check on your friends and loved ones. You monitored the latest updates from Government and from the private sector.
While all that was taking place, I received another briefing from DDM staff yesterday evening, and the NEOC has continued to monitor conditions overnight. We were dealing with a tropical storm yesterday. Now, Jerry is a Category 2 Hurricane, and it still has time to intensify further before it reaches us.
Since yesterday, we have seen plenty of ground seas and rough water, but Hurricane Jerry and the other systems active in the Atlantic may have more in store for us before the day is out. As of the 5 A.M. forecast, the storm is located about 290 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands and moving west-northwest at approximately 16 miles per hour. The system has maximum sustained winds of 105 miles per hour with higher gusts. Hurricane-force winds extend as far as 25 miles from the centre of the storm, and tropical-storm-force winds can be felt as far away as 80 miles from the centre.
Forecasters still expect this system to pass to the north of our islands later today and into tomorrow, but there is some indication that Jerry may strengthen.
What does that mean for the Territory? In terms of conditions, we expect to continue to see rough seas, and a high surf advisory continues to be in effect. Jerry’s outer bands may also bring gusty winds and moderate to heavy showers, including up to 4-6 inches of rain on Anegada, and up to 1-3 inches of rain elsewhere in the Territory. We have to think of the territory as a whole and the impacts to all our islands.
And in terms of the hearts and minds of our people, there is some cause for concern. People are anxious. The memories are still very raw. There are more systems in the Atlantic. Residents need time to prepare as well as to deal with the anxiety that the unpredictability of these systems and with the level of fear that they bring.
Our decisions going forward must incorporate both the weather conditions as well as the condition of our collective spirit.
For now, in consultation with the Premier, I have decided to leave the National Emergency Operations Centre activated at a Level 1, which again means that critical response agencies in the NEOC Operations group will be monitoring Jerry’s passage closely and will remain on standby for the possibility of increasing the activation level. We are on high alert so that if this system changes suddenly, the Territory will be well placed to respond to those changes.
We have identified select emergency shelters to open in case a need arises for our people in more vulnerable homes to seek refuge. Security of the territory continues to be a priority, with additional police officers on stand-by should we need to implement a curfew or respond to any other security threat.
While the majority of the public service is closed today, essential service workers and public service information technology, public works, waste management and social care providers who staff critical services remain on duty.
Those of you not on-duty should nonetheless stay on alert. Take the time today to finalize your preparations, not just for Jerry but for other systems that may develop. All residents and visitors should spend the day monitoring conditions and listening out for the next updates, which, when they are not coming over the airwaves like this one, will take the form of regular bulletins being issued by the NEOC on the websites and social media channels of the BVI Government and the Department of Disaster Management.
I would also ask that you continue to look after each other, especially those neighbors and family members who might be feeling isolated or vulnerable in light of the unwelcome memories that waiting for a storm to pass may bring.
This message goes beyond the technicality of accurately predicting weather patterns. It provides what we intend to strive for – a consistent approach to managing hazard impacts and disasters which involves being cautious, caring, responsible and to always Be Ready.