On September 6, 2017 Hurricane Irma slammed into the US Virgin Islands as a Category 5 storm, with record wind speeds of 200 mph, making it one of the worst natural disasters to have hit the islands. The islands suffered severe wind and flood damage, reducing many areas to rubble. In light of the almost total devastation, we sent a Rapid Response Team to the islands. Less than two weeks later, the team was evacuated due to Hurricane Maria, which struck the islands on September 20 as a Category 4 storm.
We responded to the call for help with debris removal, mucking and gutting, mold sanitization and minor repairs on homes and schools across the islands of St. Thomas and St. John.
On the island of St. John, teams focused on assessments of damaged homes, as well as repairing and rebuilding home interiors and roofs. Additionally, cleaning and clearing, sanitation and debris removal were performed as the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria weighed heavily on the community. While our focus was on interior work in St. John, the team also sealed concrete roofs and volunteered for a day at a local farm. Our work impacted 24% of the island.
Our teams on St. Thomas worked tirelessly to aid recovery and complete their work on the island. We completed work on 12 schools, where volunteers performed work that included rebuilding structures, clearing and sanitizing interiors and performing full interior retrofits where needed. The roofs were also repaired with disaster-resilient techniques by installing hurricane ties and new galvalume. In addition to school repair and rebuild efforts, volunteers helped to repair fencing around a ballpark, tennis court, basketball court and batting cages at Alvin McBean Park. Our volunteers also undertook efforts to help repair the Youth Development Center by soundproofing a music studio so students can return for music lessons, recording sessions and martial arts classes. Additionally, our volunteers were actively involved in rebuilding homes.
On July 31, 2019, more than 18 months after arriving on the islands, we officially closed our US Virgin Islands program. Our volunteers worked tirelessly to bring lasting strength to the islands.