Well, we had a splendid Sunday here on St. John…The entire island was without power for a total of twelve hours between midnight on Sunday morning and 9PM that evening. And, well, here in Love City we KNOW how to get by without power for a multitude of weeks at a time (thanks Irma!). But, this Sunday’s outage got Teddy, our neighbors and myself into a deep talk about hurricane prep. And, as the third and final blackout of the day happened right as I was making dinner (grateful for the gas stove!) I realized how much updating my hurricane boxes and bags need.
First, I want to get into the subject of WAPA and Sunday’s outages. Apparently, something happened with feeder twelve and either the wiring or the transmission leading to it. And, according to WAPA’s plethora of Facebook posts over the 24 hours of intermittent power, in layman’s terms, around 9:30 on Saturday night line crews were dispatched to make repairs to a feeder 12 transmission line and customers on feeders 7B, 7C, 7E, and a portion of 6B and 10B were experiencing outages (Not St. John, see chart below). About three hours later, power was restored to those customers but almost immediately (12:37AM) another post went up notifying St. John customers that Feeder 9E (that’s us!) was down. That outage lasted until about 6-7AM. Leaving many sweaty and sleepless St. Johnians grumpy and unrested on a Saturday night in June…
We woke up Sunday morning and everything seemed to have righted itself until later in the morning an announcement about scheduled outages throughout the day with time blocks based on feeder numbers was released. Now, I don’t know about you, but I am definitely not spending my days, especially Sundays, scouring the social media pages for information on whether or not my power is going to stay on. So, we all missed both of the announcements prior to the scheduled St. John outages until the power was already off again. At least they kept to the time stamp on these. For St. John, it was 1PM-3PM and then 7PM-9PM. Wouldn’t it be neat if the company who is tasked with PROVIDING POWER for ALL of the US Virgin Islands at least had some kind of a text message update service or maybe, just maybe, they had a way to keep the damn lights on? Pardon my French. But, we are not in a third world country. And, although I formerly stated that we are probably, based on past experience, in a much better position than most people in most places to go through these rolling blackouts, it is a giant pain in the butt. Especially considering that our cost per kilowatt hour is one of the highest in the WORLD. DO BETTER WAPA.
In a poll on Statista, conducted in September of 2021, Denmark is ranked as most costly based on the then recorded national average of .36 per kilowatt hour. Germany comes in second at .35 and the UK a bit further down at .28. The US national average was only .16. Can you take a guess at what it is un the USVI? Go ahead. Take a stab at it…
FORTY THREE CENTS per kilowatt hour. And, we get to lose power all the time. And still pay for it. No discounts on months with mulitple outages. They basically use the meter reading average to charge you. It’s absolutely absurd.
Ohkayyyy…Complaining about WAPA was not what I intended to do when I sat down to write this post so pardon me for getting a bit sassy. This one is for all the people in the back contemplating a move to the beautiful Virgin Islands…Paradise has it’s price. And, this is one of the ultra splendid inconveniences that you should prepare yourself for in the event of an upcoming move. And, speaking of inconveniences and being prepared, this leads me to the actual intention of this article…
Sunday night as I fumbled with my hurricane kit (everyone who lives here year round should have one of these!), I realized that the batteries in my headlamp and flashlight were dead. I couldn’t locate a lighter for candles. We haven’t filled all of our backup water jugs yet so there was no water (the pump is electric) for dishes or flushing the toilet. And, I started going through the bigger checklist in my head, realizing I need to do some serious shopping to get ready for the fall!
Luckily for me, we have a gas stove so I was able to finish cooking dinner. Teddy had a head lamp that was charged up. My phone and the flashlight attached to it were good to go and I did eventually find a lighter to get those candles lit up. But, this will not fly for a multitude of days or weeks without current. So, I prepared the following list in order to get ready for the upcoming hurricane season. What’s the theory? Wash your car or fill up on water and it will inevitably rain? Well, hopefully with all of this preparedness spending and shopping the same will ring true for a lack of hurricanes. But, it is ALWAYS better to be safe than sorry 🙂
- Generator – Our AMAZING landlord is in the process of getting solar installed on the house but you never know what might happen in the event of a heavy storm to panels, battery systems, etc. A small generator that can keep lamps, fans , the fridge, etc., going at night is essential. If you already have a generator, now is probably a good time to make sure you have back up fuel and that everything is running smoothly.
- Fuel- Speaking of gasoline, there were times after Irma that there was no gas or diesel on island. Five to ten gallons of back up fuel for your vehicle, chainsaw and generator isn’t a horrible idea.
- Chainsaw, Machete, Axe- If there are downed trees, underbrush and debris blocking roadways or exits from your safe place after a disaster, you will need a way to get out!
- Water- The recommended amount of water to keep around as back up is one gallon per person per day for up to ten days. So, ten gallons per person for sanitation, flushing and drinking water.
- Lights- You cannot have enough of them! I have recommended the Luci lights in the past but really, any type of solar lights are great. Keep them out charging during the day and you’ll have light throughout the evening.
- Solar Chargers- Keep your phones and fans running throughout the night.
- Battery Operated or Rechargeable Fans- On of the worst day to day things in the aftermath of Irma? No sleep. It’s the hottest time of the year and your overhead fans, air conditioning and ac power fans won’t be around to help you out at night. If you invested in a generator, you can keep some fans plugged in but it will be pretty loud while you’re trying to sleep. These Ryobi rechargeable fans are a dream and use the same charging source as your power tools to keep them juiced for a good night’s sleep.
- Food- Non-perishables and lots of them. But, get creative. Remember, produce might be hard to come by and you’ll be expelling a lot of energy each day so stock up on nutrient and carbohydrate packed food for your pantry. Ready to eat noodle and rice dishes, freeze dried fruits and vegetables, fruit and nut granola bars, protein bars, oatmeal, coconut water, water enhancers with vitamins and electrolytes and canned proteins, fruits and veggies are all a good idea to have stocked up going into this time of year. VitaCost (or Vi Taco Street :)) has all of these items and they ship free to the USVI for orders over 50 bucks!
- First Aid Kit- ACE bandages, BandAids, antibacterial creams, Benadryl, Asprin, gauze, athletic tape and antiseptic are the bare essentials for what you should have in your hurricane prep first aid kit. Bug spray and sunscreen are some good add ons to that as well.
- Satellite, HAM or Two Way Radio- After Irma, connectivity was sparse for WEEKS. In some areas for months. Some type of communication device that doesn’t rely on cellular towers is super helpful for staying connected.
Teddy just informed me that WAPA posted this morning at 11:06AM that power was down on Feeder 8A (restored forty minutes later). So, with that, I’ll wrap this up so I can get it posted before another potential outage on St. John 🙂 And, once again, I do apologize about my negative tone at the beginnings of this write up. Hopefully, like myself, other residents will see the silver linings here and kick their hurricane/WAPA outage prep into high gear!
Cover Photo: Aerial shot of the V.I. Water and Power Authority Richmond Plant. By ERNICE GILBERT/ V.I. CONSORTIUM