An elderly resident of Estate Ruby clutches a pack of batteries given to him by Albert Bryan, Jr. of Operation Rebuild the Virgin Islands. (Melody Rames image)
News Americas, MIAMI, FL, Fri. Oct. 20, 2017: It’s been a month since Hurricane Maria slammed into St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, turning the lives of its 50,000 plus residents upside down and sending them back in time overnight. While the mainstream US media has focused largely on the impact of Maria on Puerto Rico – that ‘other’ U.S. territory – St. Croix and the struggle of most nationals on the U.S. Virgin Islands remains largely under reported. Here are 10 things that have become a new ‘normal’ on the island of St. Croix:
1: Generator power
More than 90 percent of the island is without electricity. The new ‘precious’ commodity is a generator. For those lucky to have one, the daily routine now is ensuring you find extra cash to buy propane, diesel or gasoline daily to fill run the generator for three hours per day to do the basic chores. Generators must be off by latest 10 p.m. island-wide leaving many sweating buckets in the dark.
2: A curfew.
Islanders are under a 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. curfew daily.
3: Cold water out of a cistern
Many have to bathe with water drawn from a tank or cistern into a bucket. There is no luxury of hot water and the only hot water comes from boiling it in a pot or kettle.
4: A cash only society
Cash is king in St. Croix today. Without cash you cannot buy the basics to survive as there is no electricity to process card payments and getting cash from the bank is a mega chore, with long lines and lengthy wait times.
5: Making a telephone call is a chore.
Making a telephone call is now a major chore as many of the cell phone towers are out and getting a signal is hit or miss and many have to drive around the island and pull over at the side of the road to catch a signal. Getting a Wi-Fi signal is also ‘iffy.’ There are some hot spots on the island but low speed rather than high is definitely the order of the day.
6: No traffic lights island wide
No power island wide now also means no traffic lights island-wide which is a scary driving proposition. Especially at darkness steps in and power poles and tree limbs and branches remains jutting into roads in many parts of the island.
7: Blue Roofs
It’s now quite normal to see blue roofs – tarpaulin and plastic covered roofs where galvanized zinc sheets once were. With many losing their roofs to Maria, tarps are the order of the day. Yet
8: Ice and Food shopping is now daily
With no electricity ice is now an in demand item to help brave the heat and stay cool while food shopping must be done daily as there is no way to store perishable items. Many supermarkets shelves are also bare as they are unable to keep restocking often and
9: Radio is now important again.
Battery operated radios are in again. Those with battery operated radios are able to stay up to date on information from the government and federal agencies including road debris clearance and road closures, filing of FEMA applications etc. This has also made batteries a precious and expensive commodity.
10: Mosquitoes and rodents are angrily trying to make it inside.
Mosquitoes, insects and rodents are now trying to also make it inside. With the nights now very long, swatting mosquitoes is also fast becoming part of the normal nights in St. Croix.