While Puerto Rico avoids direct hit, Virgin Islands take significant blow from Dorian
"Scary, whew!" Twitter user bjpendley said as they watched trees kneel to Hurricane Dorian in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, on Aug. 28.
As Hurricane Dorian embarked on its track, residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico prepared for their first hurricane test since Hurricane Maria's devastation in 2017.
However when Dorian's time came on Wednesday, the storm largely spared the island of Puerto Rico and instead pounded the U.S. and British Virgin Islands.
A woman poses for a photo backdropped by ocean waters and a Puerto Rican national flag, after the passing of Dorian, in the Condado district of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
As Dorian passed by Puerto Rico with heavy wind gusts, residents were dealt steady rain showers and power outages. While the area largely avoided the worst-case scenario, many were still impacted by localized flooding.
An 80-year-old man died after falling from the roof of his home in Bayamon, about 11 miles southwest of San Juan, while trying to clean a drain in preparation for Hurricane Dorian, Elmer Roman, Puerto Rico's secretary of Public Safety, said, according to local news reports.
Schools across the entire territory were closed on Wednesday.
The Virgin Islands were not as lucky, although the islands also largely avoided any catastrophic damage. The islands of St. Thomas and St. John were dealt island-wide blackouts, while St. Croix experienced scattered power outages. Jean Greaux, the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority Director of Communications, told CNN that about 25,000 power outages in St. Croix were restored around 7 p.m. local time.
Dorian strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane on Wednesday after it passed by St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands and reached Category 2 hurricane status on Thursday night. Further strengthening is expected as it approaches the mainland U.S. over the holiday weekend.
Widespread power outages and flooding were reported across the U.S. Virgin Islands and British Virgin Islands, as toppled trees and power lines forced local authorities to declare a state of emergency. A wind gust of 111 mph was reported on Buck Island.
In Tortola, the largest and most populated island of the British Virgin Islands, video depicted a popular roadway completely washed over.
The storm made a shift and did not hit Puerto Rico directly, but The Associated Press reported 23,000 customers were without power across Puerto Rico by early Wednesday afternoon.
Even two years removed from Maria, some Puerto Ricans are still struggling to rebuild, as blue tarps still cover many homes in areas where Maria killed upwards of 3,000 people and destroyed the island's infrastructure. Residents were also left to depend on an unstable power grid that remains prone to outages.
On Monday, the government of Puerto Rico issued an order to freeze prices of basic necessities and orders to regulate profit margins on the sale and distribution of gasoline, liquefied gas, and diesel before Dorian made landfall.
Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced said on Twitter Monday that she issued a state of emergency declaration for the island. About 360 shelters, which hold a capacity of 48,500 people, were opened while 24,000 cots were distributed.
The White House announced late Tuesday that President Trump has approved an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico, allowing federal assistance to help local response efforts. And on Wednesday, the president approved the emergency declaration for the U.S. Virgin Islands.
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