What it’s like to live on a Hurricane devastated island. Hurricane Irma Series – Part II
Fast-forwarding to 3 months+ post Hurricane Irma and one can say that the British Virgin Islands has made a significant amount of progress towards “normalcy”. Despite that, the B.V.I has an extremely long way to go before we can return to the beautiful, calm and serene British Virgin Islands that we all know and love. Let’s talk about what has been done and what needs to be done in order to complete the road to recovery.
1) Good Ole Electricity.
Imagine not having electricity for 93 days. Simple tasks such as web surfing to washing clothes via a washing machine becomes difficult with little to no electricity. Thankfully, many were fortunate enough to purchase a generator to help ease the burden of living without electricity. What about the others who can not afford a generator and has to wait however long it takes for power to be restored in their homes, if they have one?
Nonetheless, the B.V.I. Electricity Cooperation and volunteers from around the World have been diligently working to restore electricity to each and every household and establishment located throughout the British Virgin Islands. Every hour of every day you will see linemen and assistants putting up new poles and installing new lines and transformers.
Unfortunately most of our power lines are ran above ground and not below. This tremendously delayed the recovery efforts for electricity restoration. With that being said, the electricity cooperation has covered a substantial amount of the territory and they are continuing to work hard! The British Virgin Islands should also take solar and wind-powered energy more seriously, after all at least 265 of 365 days are sunny. Many homes and businesses could have had electricity right after the Hurricane if they used solar energy! Hopefully in the very near future we will improve the electrical infrastructure of the B.V.I so that we can be prepared for future natural disasters to come. P.S. your girl finally got electricity last weekend! Trust me, the cost to run a generator is unbelievable.
2) Debris removal/cleanup.
If you refer to my Hurricane Irma Series – Part I blog, you will be able to see the initial state of the British Virgin Islands after Hurricane Irma ripped through the islands. Right after Irma, if you took a walk down any street in the British Virgin Islands, you would be greeted with streets lined with derelict cars as if they were a string of Christmas lights, and crumpled galvanized roofs resembled huge balls of scrunched paper tossed all over the roads and hillsides. Dirty teddy bears to broken fridges found their way onto the streets. It made you wonder which little girl that teddy bear belonged to or whose family owned that fridge or if it was your own fridge.
Three months later and for the most part debris have been cleaned up and removed. You can now drive through roads without wondering if at any point you might have to turn around because of a large roof chilling in the middle of the road.
As of now, most roads are considered passable despite the deadly sinkholes also known as potholes that are ready to give you a whiplash or swallow your vehicle. That could probably be rectified by just simply implementing crown or cross slopes onto the roads but thats another blog post.
3) Opening and Closing of Tourism Businesses.
For about a month post- Irma, almost every business was not operating and if they were, it was not fully. Many were focusing on cleaning up and rebuilding to get to a point where they could start working again. There was this wave of depression floating around our islands because one of our financial pillars happened to be tourism, and guess what was right around the corner? Tourism season. In order to take part in tourism season and make money to help fuel our businesses and the economy, we had to have a tourism based establishment to begin with! So there was this immense pressure to get businesses back up and running to catch the high season.
Three months later and there has been a plethora of re-opening of businesses ranging from restaurants to shopping to accommodations. Many yacht charter companies have reopened to accommodate eager sailing tourists ready to return for tourism season.
Mind you, there is still a lot of damage to the yachting/boating industry as many destroyed boats still need to be removed from the sea or off land.
Along with yacht charter companies, many of our famous restaurants and shops have reopened to the public. As of December 6th, 2017 we have been accepting cruise ships at the Tortola Pier Park since the passing of Hurricane Irma. For a full, detailed list of all the business that are currently opened in the B.V.I check out this website.
On the contrary, many of our famous resorts and restaurants are closed due to significant damage sustained from the Hurricane. Resorts such as Peter Island Resort & Spa, Bitter End Yacht Club and Little Dix Bay may not reopen until late 2018 into 2019. With the closing or downsizing of businesses, comes the laying off of employees. Imagine losing everything you’ve ever owned including your home and belongings and then you find out weeks later that you no longer have a source of income to help rebuild your life? On top of that, you are depending on your insurance claim money to rebuild your home or purchase a new vehicle that was damaged by the Hurricane. That is the fate of many residents here in the British Virgin Islands. Unfortunately many have been waiting months for that cheque whether it be from work or from their insurance company, which places a halt on the rebuilding journey of their lives. Although more and more tourists are coming in and visiting our islands Post-Irma, we are no where close to what we are used to in terms of the amount of tourists who visit during high-season. It will take time before we are back to our normal high-season. If you are interested in an adventurous yet relaxing vacation despite our current situation, please do not hesitate to visit us!
4) The trees and beaches are returning.
If you remember those viral Post-Irma images of the islands’ foliage, you will definitely agree that the shrubbery has come a very long way! I remember seeing the images of the hillsides and wondered to myself how could we ever come back from this.
Little did I know that Mother Nature knows what she’s doing. Mother Nature brought back the beautiful little flowers such as frangipani and bougainvillea and brought back, for the most part, the lush green hillsides that we are used to.
No longer does it look like a wild fire came ripping through the hillsides. Unfortunately a lot of our beloved palm trees suffered in the Hurricane and it may take 10 to 25 years for them to grow back to their full adult stage. But, I believe Mother Nature will come through and deliver like she always does.
5) School Status.
The Elmore Stoutt High School and other schools were ripped to shreds by Hurricane Irma, leaving thousands of students without a safe and comfortable place to learn and get an education. The Music Block of the High School crumbled to pieces. That Music Block has nurtured and groomed thousands of students including myself and I hope and pray for it to be rebuilt for the sake of those kids.
Many kids around the World and even in the B.V.I mutter their hatred for school and wishing they didn’t have to attend but that became a reality here on September 6th of 2017.
Fortunately, make-shift schools and tents were put into place and the school season started on October 5th, 2017. Along with the make-shift schools, shifts of 8am – 12pm, and 1pm – 5pm were introduced to the school programs to help facilitate the students.
It will be a very long time before the Elmore Stoutt High School and other damaged schools are rebuilt and back to normal.
6) Mental State of the B.V.I. Residents.
If you read the many news articles released by MSNBC, BBC, CNN and so on, the most common statements written and expressed are “BVIStrong”, “The people of the B.V.I are resilient” or “We will come back better than ever”. After experiencing one of the most horrific natural disasters of our time, this sense of urgency to return to normalcy added extra stress and pressure to the residents of the B.V.I. This made us put our well being on the backboard while trying our hardest to return back to the 5 Star B.V.I visitors and locals were used to. As you walk around, you will notice the depression plastered on the faces of passers-by. They would crack a smile for .001 seconds but then their faces would quickly resemble what they are truly feeling inside. Many of the people who experienced or were affected by the storm are quietly struggling with some form of PTSD or depression. It is our duty as a community and as World Citizens to check on each other and offer help and advice if needed. I hope we will take this holiday break as a chance to reflect and seek closure. If we don’t, we may have a lot of suicide cases on our hands.
All in all the British Virgin Islands has a very long way to go as we should know by now. I think we can take a few pages or even chapters out of the books, islands such as St.Maarten/St.Martin and Antigua & Barbuda are using in regards to recovery. We can definitely learn a thing or two from their infrastructure and from now on implement those processes into our recovery journey. If you can, it would be greatly appreciated if you can donate to the many BVI Relief funds here, whether it be through supplies or financial assistance. Also if you’d like to volunteer your time and services in respect to your profession whether it be medicine, engineering or construction, we will be forever grateful! And remember, the only way we can bounce back from this catastrophe, is for YOU GUYS to visit or return to the beautiful British Virgin Islands!
For updates on what hotels, villas, restaurants and activities will be open, check out this website here or keep tuning into my blogs for Hurricane Irma series updates! Please do keep us in your hearts and visit us whenever you get the chance!