St. John to Be Featured on Good Morning America Monday

ian and robin roberts

Iam Samuel and Robin Roberts of Good Morning America

Great news to share with you all tonight! St. John is going to be featured on Good Morning America tomorrow morning … how exciting is that??!!

For those of you who follow us over on our Facebook page, you may have seen the post we shared from Robin Roberts Saturday morning. Robin was over in St. Thomas and posted a rainbow pic just moments before she hopped on a boat to St. John.

We caught up with Ian Samuel briefly this evening, and he told us how he had the privilege of giving Robin a tour of our island Saturday. He also said how she stopped by his home later in the day. (Ian is also a member of the Bloomberg USVI Recovery team.)

It’s so nice to see St. John getting the media coverage it deserves. And while some areas of the island have had power restored, there are still many who are on day 68 without power.

The segment is scheduled to air tomorrow, November 13th between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. EST on ABC. If someone is able to capture the video, we’d love for you to email us the clip to jenn@newsofstjohn.com. We still do not have cable down here, so thank you in advance if you’re able to. :)

New Nonprofit Clinic Getting New Home; Plans to Reopen This Month

new clinic location

The Island Health and Wellness Center is moving across the street to Greenleaf Commons.

Earlier this year, we introduced you to Sandy Colasacco and told you how she opened a new non-profit clinic called the Island Health and Wellness Center. We love Sandy so much and truly believe in her, her clinic and its mission. Because of that, we held a raffle for the clinic and, with the help of all of you, we were able to raise more than $30,000 to help support it. It was amazing.

Then Hurricane Irma struck. Sadly, the clinic did not fare well. It sustained major water damage and then mold, forcing Sandy to closed its doors permanently. But that didn’t mean that Sandy stopped working. Rather than seeing patients in a traditional manner, she began helping others wherever she could – in grocery stores, at Chelsea Drug Store, at the Westin and other various locations around the island.

Well today we have extremely good news to share with all of you – Sandy has found a great new location for the clinic! And it’s just across the street!

Beginning on November 20th (or perhaps sooner if she can), Sandy will resume seeing patients at the Island Health and Wellness Center. The new center will be located at the former Drift Away space just above St. John Market. The cost will remain the same – just $50 per visit – but no one will be turned away due to the inability to pay.

So the good news is that a much-needed service is about to resume on island. The bad news of that it’s going to cost a ton of money. Between securing the new space, renovation work, the purchasing new equipment and supplies and other necessary steps to get the space patient ready, Sandy estimates that it will cost the nonprofit more than $33,000. And that’s simply to get the door open. So yet again, we are asking for your help.

If you have the ability to donate to the Island Health and Wellness Center, please do. All donations are tax-deductible as the center is a registered 501(c)3 organization. You can donate directly to the center by clicking this link. It will bring you to the center’s secure donation page.

The Island Health and Wellness Center has received from some private donors and other charitable organizations; however more help is needed. So if you can even donate a dollar, please do. Every little bit helps.

An Update on the Island’s Trees

trees at maho bay road

The remaining trees that line the road at Maho Bay.

Over the past two months, we have received numerous emails regarding the status of the trees, bushes, flowers and other flora around the island. The good news is that a large amount has come back; however there are still large swaths of the island where the foliage simply appears to be gone.

We came across the following article written by Amy Roberts for the St. John Tradewinds and Virgin Islands Source. It is a very well written article with a wealth of information on this subject. We thought we would share it with all of you…

Some St. John Trees Struggle to Recover by Amy Roberts

When the first trees started to grow leaves within a week or two of Hurricane Irma’s onslaught, residents were ecstatic. They passed around photos on cell phones of new mampoo tree buds and frangipani blossoms like proud grandparents showing off baby pictures.

But the damage inflicted by Hurricane Irma on the forests of St. John September 6 may be much worse than anyone suspected. The upper western-facing slopes, including Mamey Peak and the Cinnamon and Maho Bay watersheds, have been particularly affected. Seven weeks after the storm, there are still swaths of forest where the trees are lying flat, and little that is green can be seen.

“I’m afraid there’s been a great deal of tree death there,” said native species expert Eleanor Gibney. “The sheer force of the gusts, estimated at 250 mph, separated the bark from the wood. No tree can survive that.”

Seeing the trees recover in other areas, Gibney initially had been optimistic.

“I thought at first the trees were very delayed, but it’s worse,” she said. Some trees will recover, she acknowledged, but “there’s a huge loss on the western-facing slopes. What that means, we don’t know. Those were mostly native tree species. Will they re-seed, or will pioneer species, like tan-tan, take over? We don’t know.”

Recent heavy rains have been a source of misery for people who have lost roofs or windows and are trying to stay dry, but for the trees and other vegetation on St. John, the rain is exactly what’s needed.

“Rain is an incredibly mixed thing, but it’s the best thing for natural growth,” said Gibney. Although some areas still look like they’ve been blasted by a bomb, she said, “the vegetation is coming back. It’s a positive thing every day.”

“A lot of trees lost branches but didn’t blow over. If a tree has most of its roots in the ground, it can recover,” she said. “I’ve been watching the trees in my yard. It was a total mess. I said, ‘They’re not coming back.’”

Five weeks later, she was finding little leaves coming out of the trunks, she said.

Gibney has observed that some non-native species, such as genips from Venezuela and wild tamarind from Guatemala, have been the first to put out new leaves, “which is not necessarily a good thing when it’s early in the hurricane season.”

Some native tree species, such as pigeonberry and turpentine, “have been a lot more cautious, waiting two or three weeks to send out new growth,” Gibney said.

She doesn’t know yet how two rare species of plants that are common to St. John have fared because they’re located within the V.I. National Park in places that are not yet accessible.
The bay rum trees, source of the aromatic oil that was once a significant export product from St. John, are coming back.

“One of the bay rum trees in my yard was 30 feet back from the shoreline,” Gibney said. “The waves hit it – it was lying down – but after a month I saw tiny green leaves.”

What made Hurricane Irma so deadly to coastal vegetation, particularly on the north side of the island, was the storm surge. Gibney said past hurricanes, such as Hugo and Marilyn, never sent more than a trickle of sea water into her yard, which is located right behind the beach in Hawksnest Bay.

During Irma, however, “The water came 100 feet in from the shore, right up to my house,” Gibney said. “The surge took out the sea grapes; all the trees are lying flat, though some are still alive. Ninety percent of my coconuts are gone; they’re not coming back.”

The power of the sea’s surge is visible on Peace Hill, at the eastern tip of Hawksnest Bay, where waves have scoured the cactus off 20 to 30 feet of the lower hillside. The surge’s effect is visible along the north shore beaches, including Trunk, Cinnamon, and Maho Bays, where the shoreline trees lay uprooted in twisted, brown tangles.

Click here to read the rest of the story at St. John Tradewinds.

Acts of Kindness: Bruce Twyon and Southern Hospitality

Bruce Twyon (right) and Jay Rushing (left) jokingly hold a "St. John Hurricane Relief Telethon" on Sept. 24, 2017 at Chester's ... It was really a flash mob of 75 at Chester's Fried Chicken for an impromptu BBQ. :)

Bruce Twyon (right) and Jay Rushing (left) jokingly hold a “St. John Hurricane Relief Telethon” on Sept. 24, 2017 at Chester’s … It was really a flash mob of 75 for an impromptu BBQ. :)

Everyone has a role in the recovery efforts on St. John and the surrounding islands. Today we’d like to introduce you to Bruce Twyon. Bruce is the owner of Southern Hospitality and So Ho II, two charter boats in Cruz Bay. Bruce was fortunate in that both of his charter boats survived the hurricanes, and because of that, Bruce has been giving back to the community as a thank you ever since.

Since the storms hit, Bruce, a retired state trooper from New Hampshire, has done a number of humanitarian trips alongside fellow captains Jay Rushing and Eric Hovgaard. The following list is a sampling of what these men have done for the betterment of our community over the past two months:

  • They helped personally evacuate residents from the island, bringing them to the airport and Red Hook in St. Thomas.
  • They helped evacuate local police, fire personnel and other residents of St. Thomas who were stranded on St. John while the ports were closed.
  • Working with the Kenny Chesney foundation, they assisted with the evacuation of residents, some in need of medical attention, as well as numerous dogs and cats. On their return, they transported necessary personnel and supplies back to St. John.
  • They brought 15 of the 25 New York State Troopers who came to aid our island, as well as their gear, from the airport on St. Thomas to St. John after dark. This was a treacherous trip as there were no navigational lights or markers working on either island.
  • The men delivered much-needed medicine and medical supplies to the hospital on Tortola at the request of the Virgin Islands Relief Fund.
  • And to thank those who have helped our community so very much, they’ve ever offered free Sunday-funday-style boat trips to those of were feeding thousands of people each day with the help of the Red Cross.

Bruce did not receive any compensation for these trips; his time and the boats were donated for free. (Some guests insisted on paying for fuel and tipping the crew; however some of that money has been returned to the residents of St. John directly.) So again, a BIG thank you to captains Bruce, Jay and Eric for all of their efforts over the past few months. It takes a village, folks.

Eric Hovgaard

Eric Hovgaard

southern hospitality

Southern Hospitality – Nov. 2, 2017

Acts of Kindness: Monica and Connor

monica and connor planting (1)

Monica Knaggs and Connor Masterson

Sandy Spit is a picturesque little island located off of Little Jost Van Dyke over in the British Virgin Islands. Comprised only of sand and a handful of trees, it’s been a popular spot over the years for boaters, sunbathers, photographers and people simply looking to have a good time. But sadly when Hurricane Irma blew through back on September 6th – two months ago today – it took all of the island’s trees along with it. And now two St. John residents are looking to fix that.

Sandy Spit on August 31st, less than one week before Irma.

Sandy Spit on August 31st, less than one week before Irma.

Sandy Spit on October 2nd. Photo credit: Steve Simonsen

Sandy Spit on October 2nd. Photo credit: Steve Simonsen

Meet Monica and Connor. The couple traveled over to Sandy Spit last weekend with one purpose – to replant a group of coconut palms in an effort to restore Sandy Spit to its pre-hurricane state.

“I came up with the idea and we weren’t really sure about it, so I did a little research and Connor went to St. John Hardware and they helped tell us what would work best,” Monica told me last week “They asked what it was for and Connor told them we wanted to replant Sandy Spit, and they gave us the soil for free, which was amazing ! So huge shoutout to Kate Swan!”

The couple dug a few hole to see what was below the soil and found mostly saltwater at first. After a few more tries, they found a spot with soil underneath and no water. They placed the rooted coconut palms in the shape of a heart, added a mixture of soil and manure, and then watered each. They grabbed some sticks and pieces of driftwood found around the island to complete their heart.

connor planting

Monica tree

Monica is asking anyone in the area of Sandy Spit to stop by and water the baby palms if you are able. There’s been a decent amount of rain falling, but every little bit helps.

So a big thank you for Monica and Connor for this wonderful act of kindness. It takes a village folks, and together we will all get through this. :)

monica connor heart palms

GoPro Video: Fish Bay Area

Here is the second half of today’s GoPro area taken last week in the Fish Bay area…