Together we Rise! St. John Strong is not just a catchy phrase, it captures the spirit of our community, but even the strong need support to recover from a disaster like this. This is a team effort and boy what a team that has come together!
*Information contained in this article is copied with permission directly from SJCF Director Celia Kalousek’s report 9.22.201
FEEDING: Red Cross served 1700 meals yesterday and approved feeding sites have 3 days worth of food as of this morning’s reports; Cruz Bay Landing and Longboard are open 10am-12pm and 2pm-4pm. 420’s Sharky’s Machine continues to serve in an efficiently generous and continuous support mode. VITEMA/FEMA distribution points have 5 days worth and are located at JESS ball field in Cruz Bay and Coral Bay Fire Dept. The daily distribution kicks back in today and includes a case of water, a case of MRE’s for each household and other supplies such as bleach, canned goods, some clothes and cleaning supplies, and even ice when available. The 4 Cruz Bay markets are open with a good supply of dry and canned goods, as well as some frozen, but low on produce and fresh proteins. With 2 barges down, and STT flooding, we can expect that the purveyors will have limited delivery to STJ for the immediate future. Deliveries to the homebound are taking place and needs are expanding.
SHELTER: The shelter counts in Cruz Bay went from almost 100 to 38 last night as people are returning to their homes to patch and repair parts of their structures to shelter in place. Residents are urged to take many pictures of damage before repairing for insurance purposes and to register on the FEMA links or 800 # in yesterday’s post. The Bloomberg team is leading the restoration efforts in conjunction with VITEMA and FEMA – they rebuilt Staten Island after Hurricane Sandy and are bringing experience and support to the rebuilding of our island! Sharon reported that the Shelter Box Homes were not as vital as first thought as people are finding solutions created in the interim. Building materials are making their way out to families in need in Cruz Bay and Coral Bay, but more are needed. The shelter at JESS going to be transitioned up to Bethany due to leaking and the need for repairs to begin.
COMMUNICATION: The fiber optic cable was damaged in Maria, and the DIRT team is making sure there is a GATOR at the clinic and at the Coral Bay Fire Station to ensure some connectivity. Viya has taken the lead on getting service in Cruz Bay with word that the Port Authority parking lot was a hotspot, but many are still complaining of not having service. ATT and Sprint users seem to be suffering at the moment and hope that Viya and FEMA/VITEMA can work on a solution together with VINGN, Matt, Jason and others who had initiated connectivity after Irma. Sharon is getting internet correspondence in/out of Coral Bay. Communications are improving hourly!
TRANSPORTATION: Roads are being constantly cleared and mud and rockslides continue to be an issue. National Park is clearing North Shore Road. People are encouraged to stay off the roads. Ports are closed today and no word of reopening for pedestrian traffic, although all people ferries are reported as operable – right now only emergency and commercial deliveries are being considered. Delivery of diesel/fuel is a concern so people are also being urged to be conservative with their supply. Only two barges are in working order and when ports officially open, deliveries of equipment and supplies, and debris removal will be priority. Racetrack gas station’s generator continues to cause service interruption, but E&C is open.
SECURITY/MEDICAL: 31 NY troopers arrived today, however much of the military and FEMA deployments are needed in St. Croix and Puerto Rico with limited visibility on St. John as of this morning, but they are underway. The new police Chief Connolly was introduced this morning and seems to have things under control. The clinic is in good shape and a Dr. from John’s Hopkins is on St. John to offer expanded care options. Chelsea drugstore is open and now able to accept credit cards!
BANKING/BUSINESS: FEMA is working on getting armored ATMS for St. John; there is no word on when the banks will be open. Connections had been able to get Western Union connections working after IRMA, but for now can only send money out. St. John Hardware unpacked a container yesterday so has some good supplies (cash only for now).
SCHOOL/YOUTH: GHS is opening Monday as announced earlier, however due to the 6pm to 10am curfews in place, school will be from 10am-2pm (not9am as previously announced). GHS, now being called the “private school for public use” will open for currently enrolled students 9/25 at 10 am on the 25th, and at noon, they will start interviewing families who want to send their children there. Money should not be a consideration, just a willingness to learn and a desire for continuing education. They will enroll students until they are at capacity, and then figure the rest out. More details to come on how to help them continue cultivating strong minds and caring hearts.
VOLUNTEERS: Cory is still coordinating volunteers from COnnections; now through Monday, they are needed to help clean up GHS in prep for school to start there. The Grand Celebration will essentially be the “hotel” for the National Guard and first responders in St. Thomas, who are helping residents impacted by the storms. The boat has a capacity to house 2,000 people, and hopefully more will follow suit and we can have that as an option for volunteers down the road- details to come later. Please know that many aspects of this recovery will take weeks, months and even years ….and we WILL need you. Register online with Nation Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster in order to link into potential orgainizations in your area organizing mission tripshttps://voad.communityos.org/
DONATIONS: Persons interested in helping Hurricane Irma/Maria disaster response in St. John can still best support the relief effort by making a cash donation instead of sending donated goods and services at this point in time. Cash donations to voluntary disaster relief organizations enables them to purchase exactly what is most needed whereas donated items require voluntary agencies to spend money and considerable time for sorting, inventorying, warehousing, and distribution of smaller shipments. We will get to the point of being able to do this for donations in the coming weeks, and continue to get and appreciate bulk containers of building materials and non-perishables.
Our community is resilient and with your help, we WILL rebuild! Support coming in now will help us revive and rebuild in what is going to be a long road ahead. As you may know, we were formed in the aftermath of Hurricane Marilyn and have been responsibly managing local and federal funds for over 28 years. The St. Croix Foundation will also need your help and the Community Foundation of the VI on St. Thomas is also receiving donations to help in this recovery effort.