Residents of the Virgin Islands battered by Hurricane Irma began to assess damage on Thursday while also looking ahead to the next possible threat — Hurricane Jose. Irma's destruction, however, has made it harder to find out where they stand.
“We’re praying Jose goes north of us,” said John Klein from the U.S. island of St. Thomas. He also owns White Bay Villas and Seaside Cottages on Jost Van Dyke, in the British Virgin Islands.
Klein said he’s desperate for information: Due to the severe damage and dire conditions on both islands, there are no ferries running between them, no power, no internet, no email and no local cell service.
“It’s just miraculous that whatever line it is that I’m on works — I don’t even know what line it is,” Klein said, using a friend’s cellphone to communicate with WTOP.
“We have to prioritize where we put our time and effort right now, and whether we’re trying to assess damage, clean stuff up or get ready for the next hit,” Klein said.
From his home on the east end of St. Thomas near Red Hook, Klein described seeing entire tops of some homes torn off, roofs and solar panels lying everywhere, and trees, debris and power poles blocking roads.
“We are pretty much on our own,” he said.
At the same time, he noted that people holed up in his home have the benefit of a generator, a few days of food and water that can be removed by bucket from a cistern.
“We’re good. Everybody here who’s in this house is healthy — exhausted, but we’re trying pull it together,” Klein said.
White Bay Villas’ guest relations manager, Bonnie Martin, lives in Annapolis, Maryland. She said she’s been receiving reports on the condition of businesses on Jost Van Dyke.
“I’ve gotten confirmation that Ivan’s is gone. I just got a picture that One Love on White Bay is gone. I heard that (the customs check-in building) got hit; the docks are bad,” Martin said Thursday afternoon.
“This is not confirmed, but I’ve heard that any wooden structure is gone.”
Martin said offers of help are pouring in. People are offering money, their time and labor, but the challenge will be getting people and supplies to the island, Martin said.
Airports on St. Thomas and Beef Island, which is east of Tortola, are closed and ferries aren’t running. There’s devastating damage everywhere, and Martin worries rebuilding efforts for larger islands might be prioritized over the needs of smaller ones.
“Everyone needs help. I just hope that there’s enough people, enough [of an] outpouring, that they take care of everyone on those islands, Martin said.
“It’s not going to be easy and it’s not going to be quick.”