Follow Virgin Islands National Park and Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument as we recover from two devastating hurricanes that ravaged St. John and the rest of the Leeward Islands in 2017. Hurricane Irma struck St. John on September 6, 2017, and changed the island forever.
Once the storm passed, the worst was yet to come. Venturing outside for the first time and seeing the destruction was impossible to comprehend. Every leaf was stripped from the island. All the telephone poles were down. Most of the island trees had been toppled and many were tangled with the poles and wires.
Work and evidence of recovery had already started when the news of Hurricane Maria baring down on us brought everyone to their knees. The Navy, National Guard, and many other groups who had come to assist were evacuated.
After Hurricane Maria brought further rain,wind and destruction, there was nothing to do but move forward, one step at a time. Virgin Islanders, and especially St. Johnians, are a courageous lot!
We have compiled articles, vides and images so that you can follow our progress.
Pre storm Meandrina in mangrove roots, filled with fish, sponges and other creatures.
Credit: Caroline Rogers
Post storm Meandrina, notice the lack of fish, sponges and the tumbled coral.
Credit: Caroline Rogers
It was hoped that St. John would have 90% power by Christmas.
We think the goal has been reached!! We have even better news: they are now running power lines to the remote areas of St. John.
All beaches, trails and roads are open!!
Fifth Beach Reopens at Virgin Islands National Park
Maho Bay post Hurricane Irma
Credit: Christy McManus
Maho Bay Opens
Credit: NPS photo
December 13, 2017
St. John, Virgin Islands – “Maho Bay Beach has officially reopened” announced Acting Superintendent Darrell Echols. “It doesn’t look quite the same since most of the structures were damaged beyond repair and had to be removed, but the beach itself is open for recreational use.”
Divers checked the swim area for underwater debris and cleared what they found, but, as always, be cautious. Recreational buoys to moor on have all been inspected. A very few have a prominent red tag that means they need additional inspection and repair. The rest are ready for use.
The North Shore road along Maho Beach was undercut on the beach side and is a single lane until repairs take place. The effected road section is delineated with orange cones, but please be cautious when driving in that area. Both parking areas have been cleared and are open.
Getting the road open along Maho Bay was a challenge in the early days after Irma and Maria hit. Tangled trees and debris blocked the width of the road for long stretches. The Arrowhead Hotshot crew from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks was instrumental in clearing not just the Maho Bay stretch, but the whole length of the North Shore road.
Cinnamon Bay Archaeology Museum was destroyed during Hurricane Irma, September 5, 2017.
A lot of folks have asked about the fate of the Cinnamon Bay Archaeology Museum. The restored structure was the oldest building on St. John and housed the cultural exhibits enjoyed by so many visitors and residents. Be forewarned...if you knew and loved this place it will be disturbing to watch.
Trunk Bay Open
November 21, 2017
Trunk Bay on St. John is now open as well as Christiansted National Historic Site and Buck Island Reef National Monument over on St. Croix.
Boats in Water Creek Pre Irma
Credit: Photo by Christy McManus
Boats in Water Creek Post Irma
Credit: Photo by Christy McManus
November 18, 2017
We are delighted to announce that Hawksnest Beach and Honeymoon Beach are officially open! Vault toilets or port-o-potties are in place. A huge amount of debris was removed from the beaches themselves and park divers removed submerged debris from the swim areas. Even so, continue to be cautious when swimming anywhere in park waters. As you well know, a lot of "stuff" ended up blowing into the water around here!
What's Happening in the water?
November 11, 2017
Think scuba divers have a glamorous job? When most people hear about National Park Service divers at Virgin Islands National Park, they envision the tropical recreational dives that showcase coral and fish. While this underwater scenery exists, and scientific dives are conducted for natural resource monitoring and protection; much of the diving that occurs is to do preventative and repair maintenance on the over 400 buoys that are our responsibility. Some serve as aids to navigation that prevent boaters from running aground, marking navigational channels, and others provide a mooring space that prevents damage to coral and reefs.
Divers have been resetting the seven yellow (special informational) buoys around Johnson’s Reef. These markers prevent damage to both the reef and to vessels. Each connects to a 4,000 pound concrete block set on the seafloor. Impacted by both hurricanes Irma and Maria, several buoys were detached and washed ashore. Other buoys were hit with so much force; they lifted the concrete blocks and were moved off their anchoring. Divers used airbags to lift the blocks and relocate them in the correct location and then reattached the buoys.
Dive teams have successfully made the repairs to these seven buoys and are continuing the long process of visually inspecting the remaining buoys; in addition to looking for submerged debris in areas along the beaches.
November 10, 2017
Happy Veteran’s Day
from Virgin Islands National Park! American citizens since 1927, residents of the US Virgin Islands serve in all branches of the U.S. Military. Thank you to the veterans on the Virgin Islands staff as well as the veterans on the Incident Management Team who are helping with the hurricane recovery work!
Assessing Historic Sites
November 8, 2017
Besides being blessed with an abundance of natural beauty, the islands have a rich cultural history.The ancient Taino people, the Europeans with dreams of wealth, and the enslaved Africans who built the homes, did the work, and then demanded and won their freedom, have all left an imprint on the land.
Archeologists from the NPS’ Southeast Archeological Center, Biscayne National Park, and Rock Creek Park have been on the ground at Virgin Islands National Park conducting assessments of the archeological and historical sites following Hurricanes Irma and Maria. To date the team has visited over 50% of all the sites, noting damages to the unique cultural heritage of St. John that was brought by the storms. While some sites have sustained damaged, others were untouched.
Cinnamon Bay Lab 2016
Credit: Photo by Anne Finney
Cinnamon Bay Lab Post Hurricanes Irma & Maria
Credit: Photo by Christy McManus
Another Possible Storm
September 16, 2017
The National Hurricane Center announced the horrifying news that there was another storm brewing and it was headed towards the islands. For everyone in the islands this was just unimaginable, two hurricanes in one season.
" The disturbance is expected to intensify and will likely bring tropical storm and hurricane conditions as well as flooding rainfall to portions of the Lesser Antilles early next week. These conditions could also spread into the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico by mid week. Interests in these areas should monitor the progress of this system and follow any advice given by local officials."
For the first time the islanders were asked to evacuate. People were evacuated to San Juan or St. Croix in an attempt to get them out of the region.
By September 18th the islands were under a tropical storm Watch. At this time the only communication was one radio station and word of mouth.
Day before Irma Demolishes St. John
September 5, 2017
Note: Hurricane Irma due to hit the island within 12 hours.
The hatches are battened! Boats are tied up, windows are shuttered, and we are waiting on Irma.
Please stay safe everyone!
Alert for Hurricane Irma
September 4, 2017
A hurricane watch has been issued for Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands.
STORM INFORMATION:- About 840 miles east of San Juan PR or about 770 miles east of Saint Thomas VI- 16.8N 53.3W- Storm Intensity 120 mph- Movement West-southwest or 255 degrees at 14 mph
Irma is expected to remain as a major hurricane as it approachesPuerto Rico and the U.S Virgin Islands Wednesday afternoon into Thursday. Irma could cause dangerous winds, storm surge and rainfall impacts across the local isles. Hurricane Force winds are possible across Northern U.S. Virgin Islands, Culebra and Northeast Puerto Rico with strong tropical force winds likely. The rest of the area likely to experience tropical storm force winds. Wind gusts with hurricane forcewind are likely at higher elevations. The earliest reasonable time of tropical storm winds is Wednesday morning. Rainfall accumulations between 4 to 8 with isolated amounts over 10 inches likely Wednesday through Thursday.