The British Virgin Islands is gearing up for the potential impact of a Tropical Cyclone by activating the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) and closing the public service as well as local airports early.
A circular from the Office of the Deputy Governor said ‘out of an abundance of caution’, the government’s physical offices will be closed from 1 pm and persons will work remotely for the remainder of the day.
Sister island public officers are permitted to leave early to catch the ferry to go home by that time.
In the meantime, the Terrance B Lettsome International Airport on Beef Island and the Auguste George International Airport on Anegada will be closed from noon today, a separate media release stated.
“The Board [of the Airport Authority] approved a resolution to allow the closure of the airport to ensure that the necessary precautionary measures are taken to safeguard life and equipment at the aerodromes,” Acting Managing Director Clive Smith said.
He urged all tenants at the airport to secure their belongings by 11 am today.
“The BVI Airports Authority will issue a further advisory on the re-opening of the territory’s airports after the completion of the requisite assessments by the Authority’s technical and management teams, following the passage of the storm,” the release added.
Be cautious, stay ready
Meanwhile, in a statement last evening, Governor Augustus Jaspert said he convened a meeting of the NEOC so that territory’s leadership, including the Deputy Premier Carvin Malone, could receive a full briefing on the expectations for the impending storm and strategise how to enact our final preparations for that system.
He said: “We’ve decided to activate the NEOC at a level one, which means we will continue to actively monitor the system as it advances and prepare ourselves for a possible escalation of response.”
He said public buildings and vehicles are being safeguarded.
“The departments of Public Works and Waste Management have been escalating their efforts to clear ghuts and debris and preparing for rapid deployment if needed after the system passes. Health authorities are arranging for the safety of their staff and patients, and the Department of Disaster Management has identified shelters across the territory that can be opened if needed. Public officers have already been instructed by the Deputy Governor that physical offices should close tomorrow at 1 pm, with operations to continue remotely thereafter,” he stated.
Noting that there are already additional systems coming off the coast of Africa, Governor Jaspert urged residents to be ready.
“One [of those systems] we are watching closely may develop and track near us as early as next week while we mark our Emancipation holidays, making it all the more important that we prepare now. We have no power to control or prevent these tropical weather systems, but we know that working together we can be ready,” he added.
Similar preparedness statements were echoed by Premier Andrew Fahie.
Latest weather update
In the meantime, the Department of Disaster Management (DDM) said the National Hurricane Centre continues to monitor potential Tropical Cyclone Nine (PTC-9) that may upgrade to a Tropical Storm today.
At 5 am today, the cyclone was located approximately 290 miles east south-east of the British Virgin Islands.
The weather system was travelling in a west-northwesterly direction at 23 miles per hour (mph). It possessed winds of 45mph with higher gusts. Tropical-storm-force type winds extend from the centre outward up to 275 miles.
The system is expected to produce rainfall between three to six inches with maximum amounts of 10 inches in some locations while winds may increase to 50 to 60 mph, and power outages are possible.
A Small Craft Warning is also in effect until Thursday.