Hello all! Many of you may not know this fun little factoid, but Hurricane Season officially lasts for SIX MONTHS (June 1-November 30)! Starting on June 1 each year, those of us who live on island start to make sure our pantries are packed, our generators are tuned up and our batteries are charged in preparation for the busier hurricane months of August through October. This time of year, we begin prepping our boats for haul out, checking to make sure our hurricane shutters are in tact and putting plans in place for the event of a disaster. Now, this doesn’t mean that we are closed OR that the summer and fall are horrible times to visit. And, obviously, a lot of these items above are not things you will need to worry about while on vacation. But, there are some things that you can do as a visitor to ready yourself if a storm moves through while you are here and a few things that you can expect to be a bit different during the peak season storm months.
A lot of folks have already been writing in to inquire about what visiting St. John during September looks like…And, the immediate answer is sleepy 🙂 Due to the fact that the majority of the major storms to make landfall in the territory have been during the month of September many of our businesses close during that month to give staff a breather and make sure everything is secured in case a storm passes by.
- Hurricane Hugo – September 20, 1989 – Category 4
- Hurricane Marylin – September 15-16, 1995 – Category 2
- Hurricane Irma – September 6, 2017 – Category…I don’t know…12?
- Hurricane Maria – September 20, 2017 – Category 5
So, you can expect less crowds, quiet beach days and sparsely populated hiking trails during this time of year. But, you can also expect a lot of restaurants, boat charters, shops and other businesses to be closed for at least a few weeks during September. (Full list of off season restaurant hours and active charter boats will be released in late July-Early August).
Now, that isn’t saying that you won’t find ANYWHERE to eat out! Some places only close for a week or so and some also stagger their closing dates with other restaurants so they keep busy during that time. As far as boating excursions go, power boats will likely be around and in the water but you will likely be hard pressed to find a sailing vessel during peak hurricane season months.
But, again, if a quiet beach vacation is what you are looking for, that is a good time of year to find it here….
However, these peak storm season months are not for the faint of heart. If you have no idea what it looks like to be in the midst of a natural disaster and are planning a trip to St. John during the fall, read up on hurricane preparedness travel tips before you fly! NOAA is projecting a particularly active Atlantic Hurricane Season this year and, while you can never fully predict where one of these names storms might form or make landfall until it’s time, you CAN prepare yourself and your companions for travel during this time in any tropical locale.
The following is a list I compiled last year that is a bit more specific to what you might need when traveling to St. John. And, some of these items should make your year round packing list!
NUMBER ONE! BUY TRAVEL INSURANCE!
After Hurricane Irma, the St. Thomas airport was closed for a month. So, even folks whose accommodations had been spared by her catastrophic winds couldn’t get down here. And, many were unable to contact their on island host for weeks following due to a lack of connectivity. Simply put, spend the extra money on travel insurance if you are visiting from July-November just to be safe. If you cannot get here, then at least you can recoup your money spent!
Number Two- Watch the Weather
Before you travel, take a look at the outlook and predictions for the week. All clear? Ok, so, now you’re here, it’s gloriously quiet and peaceful…until is isn’t. Stay in the know about possible storm formations that may or may not be headed this way using the following apps:
Max Hurricane Tracker– Basic viewing and notifications of new systems and named storm formations over the Atlantic Basin.
Windy- Provides a more in-depth look at layers of wind, rain, waves clouds and air quality.
Alert VI– Sign up for this text and email service provided by Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) to receive alerts about hazardous weather conditions.
Number Three- Pack for Preparedness
Maybe everything looks clear before you head down to visit us. But storms can form quickly and unexpectedly during this slow for tourists, busy for storms time on St. John. Whether you think you might need preparedness items or not, it is still a GREAT idea to pack them…Just in case 🙂
- Solar lanterns- These useful lights pack down small and charge by the sun so they are perfect for bringing along on your trip! Let’s face it, power outages are the norm here, so I would recommend packing a few of these any time you travel to the USVI, and not just during storm season. I recommend Luci Lights (which you can find on Amazon for around ‘twenty bucks). I have had one for five years and it’s still kicking and we use it ALL the time! And, while we are talking about lights, a headlamp is ALWAYS a good idea to stow in your carryon.
- Weather Appropriate Clothing- During this unpredictable time of year, you’ll want to add a few items to your island wardrobe. Sturdy closed toed shoes, socks, practical clothing and rain gear should all be added to your packing list while you are prepping for your trip!
- Food, Drinks and Snacks- Things like nuts, granola bars, Drip Drop Hydration Packs, dried fruits and canned goods are all a stellar idea when you are traveling into an area prone to hurricanes during the busy months. And, they make for great beach snacks so if the weather is clear, you’re prepped for a beach day 🙂 We keep the hydration packs around all the time as you can never have too many electrolytes in between your Painkillers.
- First Aid Kit- Most of you already travel with the essentials but I recommend adding a few items to your basic first aid kit with the risk of a storm on the horizon line. In addition to your regular Band-Aids, Neosporin and antiseptic, I encourage you to add in some Skin So Soft Bug Wipes, baby wipes, a sturdy pocket knife, hand sanitizer and ACE Bandages. Additionally, and this is important, if you are on prescription medication, pack AT LEAST a week or two extra of what you might need. If you end up stuck here for an extended stay and the power is down (ie, the pharmacies can’t get to your insurance information, it may be difficult for you to obtain your prescriptions! If your prescriptions require refrigeration, pack a few instant cold packs and a small soft cooler as well.
I hope that this post doesn’t have you worried if you are planning on traveling from August to October! That is absolutely not the intention. Many of us live here on island throughout the storm season every year. And, generally, all is well. But, each year, we roll the dice as to what Mother Nature has in store for us and prepare for the worst…While hoping for the best. Outside of all of this, St. John is open during the “off-season” months and I promise, you won’t have a hard time finding a secluded spot on a beach to sit and ponder the day away during these times. I just urge you to be prepared and informed while visiting us during these times. And, with that, we welcome the 2022 Hurricane Season with gratuity and thanks for avoiding the shorelines of St. John in the coming months 🙂