The roof of the Virgin Islands Fire Department in Cruz Bay, seen Sept. 16, 2017, was severely damaged after the island was devastated by the category 5 storm Hurricane Irma. (FEMA/K.C. Wilsey)

U.S. Virgin Islands on Road to Recovery Six Months After Hurricanes

Six months after hurricanes Irma and Maria roared through the Caribbean, the Federal Emergency Management Agency reported today that 870,726 cubic yards of storm debris has been cleared from the U.S. Virgin Islands.

After Maria struck the already-battered islands on Sept. 19, more than 100,000 residents lost power. Through a joint effort by the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority, FEMA and Haugland Energy, 99 percent of residents have had their power restored as of this week.

Federal agencies have provided more than $800 million to the territory in FEMA grants, disaster loans by the U.S. Small Business Administration and claims payments by the National Flood Insurance Program, FEMA said, while the U.S. Coast Guard oversaw pollution mitigation and the removal of 479 displaced vessels.

“The residents of these islands are strong,” said Federal Coordinating Officer William Vogel. “They withstood two Category 5 hurricanes in two weeks. They’re working hard to get life back to normal. We are doing all we can to help the territory recover and become better able to face future storms.”

The territory has initiated the Emergency Home Repairs VI program, funded by FEMA Public Assistance, to make emergency repairs to homes so they are safe and habitable for sheltering; many roofs are still covered by tarps.

A joint task force is conducting a detailed assessment of heavily damaged medical facilities to determine the cost to repair or replace the hospitals. Temporary facilities are scheduled to open within the next few months.

Thirteen schools were closed after the storms and students have been attending other schools on double shifts. The Virgin Islands Department of Education has identified 24 storm-damaged properties on St. Croix; 18 are schools and the remaining six include the curriculum center, headquarters, adult education center, procurement warehouse, youth rehabilitation center and school lunch warehouse.

The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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