Virgin Islanders, Residents and Visitors, good day!
As you are aware, Hurricane Irma is approaching the Territory and is predicted to start impacting our islands as a powerful category 4 hurricane on Wednesday.
I know that you have started preparation since over the weekend, however, I take this time to urge you to rush to complete your hurricane preparations now.
Forecasters predict that the centre of Irma will approach the northern Leeward Islands late on Tuesday and could move near or over the BVI, Wednesday afternoon or evening bringing destructive winds and rain in the area. Forecasters have also warned that any island that experiences the eyewall could face catastrophic damage.
We cannot say with certainty whether or not the BVI will experience these effects, but every indication is that we will have some level of impact. Our best option is to be ready.
This is extremely essential because if Irma does become a category 4 hurricane, as predicted, then we can expect to experience winds of more than 130 miles per hour along with heavy rainfall of possibly between 8 to 14 inches, lightning and storm surge ranging from 10 to 14 feet.
Today, I co-chaired a meeting of the National Disaster Management Council (NDMC) with the Governor. I was pleased to receive reports about our state of readiness from the various departments and agencies. Our emergency services are ready, our utility services have escalated their preparations and have placed their response mechanisms on standby and our special attention has been given to clearing ghuts and drains throughout the Territory.
We are doing all that we can to ensure that information is getting to vulnerable communities and I urge you to act on these. Our response and recovery mechanisms are ready.
I implore individuals, families, business and mariners to make use of the time available now to secure your homes, businesses, boats and your property.
The Ministry of Education and Culture made the decision earlier not to reopen schools as originally scheduled. Private schools that are opened should review their plans and determine when it is best to close.
Make sure that you have an emergency kit well stocked with water, batteries, battery operated radio, flashlights, medications and non-perishable items. We cannot say how long the impact will last but we recommend that you have food and water for a minimum of three days.
We will do all in our power to fully prepare for this system. I will be meeting with Cabinet later this afternoon and we will continue to focus on our preparations throughout the Territory.
Remember once hurricane conditions begin to affect us it will be unsafe for you to go outdoors.
The recent flooding event would have highlighted weak areas in and around your property that need to be addressed to avoid flooding and other hazards. If you are in a location with a high risk of flooding and storm surge, please consider staying with family or friends who are located further inland and away from flood prone and landslide prone areas.
We are appealing to our family and friends on Anegada, in particular, to assess your current situation and determine if similar actions will be needed. As a low-lying island, with high storm surge vulnerability, we will continue to monitor. The potential impact and will update you on further actions that may be necessary.
We are committed to providing all necessary support to those communities that are especially vulnerable.
It is also important that you make it your business to find out the name and location of the nearest emergency shelter to you; in case you need to evacuate. This information is available online or you can contact the Department of Disaster Management directly on 468-4200.
I encourage you to look out for the elderly and differently abled persons in your communities who may need your help during this critical planning time.
Our resilience in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma will strongly depend on how prepared we are and I’m sure you will all agree that we want to minimise and avoid loss and be able to recover quickly from any impacts that Hurricane Irma may cause.
We therefore need your cooperation throughout this period—before, during and after.
Remain vigilant, stay informed and listen to and heed the instructions from the Public service agencies who are now working diligently to ensure the safety of us all.
Please also stay tuned to local radio and television stations, monitor cell providers and the Department of Disaster Management’s Facebook page BVIDDM for further updates and alerts.
May God bless and protect each of us and the Territory as a whole.