Hurricane guru: Risk for ’05

ProfwmgrayColorado State University’s Prof. William Gray expects 2005 to be calmer than 2004.  "We believe that 2005 will continue the trend of enhanced major hurricane activity in the Atlantic basin," Gray said in a news release, however the number of major storms will be less than in 2004.  The director of CSU’s Tropical Meteorology Project expects 11 named storms will occur between June 1 and Nov 30, with six of them becoming hurricanes.  This year, there were 15 named storms and 9 became hurricanes.  "We foresee an above-average probability of U.S. major hurricane landfall is anticipated," Gray said in a statement. " We do not, however, expect anything close to the U.S. landfalling hurricane activity of 2004."  However, he said there is an "above-average" major hurricane landfall risk in the Caribbean.

Cruise ships calling

CruiseWindstar and Seabourn cruise lines will be making stops off Cruz bay
this month as the winter season begins.  While, coincidentally,
Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 is in port in St. Thomas this weekend, the multi-masted
yacht Wind Spirit will be off St.
John.  The ship will also, during season, call on Jost
Van Dyke, Tortola and Virgin Gorda. Cruise-only rates begin at $1,695
per person based on double occupancy.  Seabourn, whose cruises can cost
$2,300, is including St. John on its 14-day itineraries departing
from Fort Lauderdale. 

Annual Friends meeting to hear Delegate

NpssignDelegate Donna M. Christensen will be the featured speaker at next month’s Friends of the Park annual meeting.  "She has been a supporter of national parks on a national level," said Joe Kessler, president of the group, as he announced details of the event scheduled for 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 23.  The annual State of the Park address by superintendent Art Frederick is also on the agenda. 

Hurricanes dent tourism

"The geography of the American people is so poor," said Beverly Nicholson, president of the V.I. Hotel association, said as she reported a drop in the number of cruise ship visitors to the islands in September.  The number of people arriving by air, however, rose. News of storms affecting other islands led many people to assume the VIs had also been damaged, the St. John Source reported.  However, she added, territory-wide, September hotel occupancy averaged 38.8 percent over last year’s 29.5 percent.

Looking ahead for Christmas tourism, the industry is very optimistic.  Nearly all hotels on St. Thomas and St. John are booked solid, the report said, including even smaller properties such as Estate Zootenval on the smaller island.

Land donated for civic center

The St. John Community Foundation is planning to develop a civic and cultural center on 2.5 acres of mid-island land that’s been donated by Reliance Housing Corp., the developer of affordable housing on Gifft Hill.  "This is the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to us," organization President Lonnie Willis told the St. John Source.  This kind of facility could be used by local organizations and individuals for events and meetings which have opted to rent or pursue donations of space at the Westin Resort, local restaurants and other venues.  Carole DeSenne, the Foundation’s director, said she expects the center could also host family celebrations, weddings, and graduation parties.

Now comes the hard part, Desenne conceded, raising the money.  Willis said the project will be undertaken in phases and, as yet, there is no timetable.

Doing good and having fun

Vacationer or visitor, there are lots of worthy causes on the island that, in exchange for your support, Will also show you a good time.  The annual Sprauve School Benefit, at Caneel Bay, is a wonderful event.  The food is great, the wine wonderful, and the raffle and silent auctions very rewarding, no matter whether you win or lose. The gala will be Saturday, Jan. 22. Tickets are $75/person.  For reservations, call Peggy Blitz at 340-715-6622.

Then there’s the St. John Art Festival, Feb. 19-26.