Earlier this year, there was a lot of concern voiced over the lack of greenery on the hillsides of St. John as the territory hedged through a drought. We go through a significant dry period each spring and summer leading into hurricane season.
You may remember the severity of the drought in 2015. We thought the rain would NEVER come!
Well, this year was very similar and was categorized as “severe” by the US Drought Monitor Map. And, over the past few weeks, it has come to a dramatic end with a huge surge of rainfall on St. John.
So, while the many areas in the country are experiencing intense droughts and wildfires, the Virgin Islands are experiencing record breaking rainfalls which has led to flooding in some areas. The average annual precipitation in the USVI according to Weather Atlas is 38 inches with the majority of that accumulation occurring between September and November.
The University of Nebraska reports these totals as collected by weather stations at different locations on St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John. The Cruz Bay station’s average total for October 1-13 of this year was recorded at 2.55 inches. An additional 3 inches between October 14-21 makes that a total of about six inches for this month. So, to say that things are back to being green right now would be an understatement. The hillsides are absolutely popping with color and we are experiencing beautifully clear skies under which to enjoy them.
One of the bonuses to all this rain is that our cisterns are overflowing and there will be no added water costs for STJ residents anytime soon! The majority of the homes on St. John source their water from cisterns and rain water collection. When the island is dry, we do a rain dance in hopes that droplets from the sky will replenish it to avoid paying for a water truck to come refill the cistern. So, St. John residents will hopefully be enjoying free water for many months based with this recent precipitation accumulation!
Although there are many perks to the accumulated rainfall we experienced this month, many areas of the island are categorized as under, or close to, the floodplain. In these areas, any amount of heavy rain could cause flooding.
If you have been here during a time of heavy rainfall, you may have witnessed what could be categorized as Class II whitewater rapids surging underneath Mongoose Junction. A few years ago, a Jeep was overturned from its parking spot in front of the shopping plaza during a heavy rain!
The roads in town surrounding the tennis courts and the road in front of Starfish Market have been cause of increasing concern over the years during times of intense rainfall. Because these are both major thoroughfares and the water can accumulate suddenly, drivers should be cautious of passing by these two areas specifically if the rain has been coming down for some time.
This month, residents joked about offering dinghy rides through the new “pond” that took over the area between the Fire Station and the gravel lot. Another vehicle was swept to the side of the road near the BMV lending cause for concern. Luckily, no one, except maybe the cars, was injured during either of these above mentioned events.
Now, on to my favorite wet weather bonus: There are some fascinating natural occurrences during this rainy time of year that are peeping their heads right now.
If you have hiked the Reef Bay Trail, I’m sure you have taken the small detour up to the Petroglyph pools. During regular times of year, the adjacent rock wall has a mere trickle of water leading down into the pools. But, during times of heavily accumulated rainfall, there is a raging waterfall!
Although a long hike in the rain may not be appealing to everyone, the rare waterfall viewing is well worth the trek.
Additionally, the Fish Bay Gut itself transforms into a rushing river with water features throughout. During drier times of year, the trail is an uphill scramble over rocks but, in times like these, much of it is impassable and dangerous due to the fast moving flow of rain water. If you aren’t feeling adventurous, you can likely catch a glimpse of this particular water feature by simply looking to your left as you drive over the bridge in Fish Bay. If all of this sounds a little too ambitious for you in the rain, grab a cocktail at Sun Dog and take in the Mongoose stream!
Over the past few days, skies and waters have been calm and glorious. So, cisterns are full, the flooding is over (for now), the waterfalls should be working their magic for a few more days and the hillsides are absolutely lush and gorgeous.
On a side note- if you are on island right now, there are a lot of road construction projects getting started…Which is a GREAT thing! Currently, Centerline Road near Adrian is under construction. It is passable but please exercise caution for the safety of yourselves and our hard working road crews when driving through this area!