St. John Virgin Islands: Tropical Update

According to Dr. Jeff Masters’ Wonder Blog, “Tropical Depression Two is near death….”


African tropical wave 90L
A strong tropical wave with a large circulation and plenty of heavy thunderstorm activity is a few hundred miles south of the Cape Verdes Islands, off the coast of Africa. NHC dubbed this disturbance 90L this morning. This morning’s QuikSCAT pass shows that 90L has a very large circulation, and top winds of about 30 mph. Satellite imagery from the European METEOSAT satellite show that the heavy thunderstorms associated with 90L are in two major bands, to the north and to the south of the center. There is no heavy thunderstorm activity near the center yet, and this would have to happen before 90L can be named Tropical Depression Three. Water vapor imagery shows that since 90L is forming several hundred miles south of the dry air of the Saharan Air Layer (SAL), the storm should not be affected by dry air and dust as much as Tropical Depression Two has been. Wind shear is about 20 knots over 90L, and is forecast to remain in the moderate range, 10 – 20 knots, over the next five days. Sea Surface Temperatures are about 28°C, and will remain in the 27 – 28°C range the next five days, which are high enough above the 26°C threshold for tropical cyclone formation to allow some slow development to occur. The GFS and ECMWF models continue to predict the development of this wave, though they are now less aggressive about intensifying it than they were in earlier runs. The consensus among the reliable HWRF, GFDL, GFS, and ECMWF models is to bring 90L to a point near or just north of the northernmost Lesser Antilles Islands (that’s us) 6 – 8 days from now. The storm could be at hurricane strength by then, as forecast by the SHIPS intensity model.

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St. John USVI: Alternative Energy for the Virgin Islands

U.S. Virgin Islands Tap Alpine to Build First Alt-Energy Plants
Cleantech Group

Colorado developer plans to spend $440 million to build 49 MW of waste-to-energy capacity on St. Croix and St. Thomas that could eventually lead to the closure of landfills.

Englewood, Colo.-based Alpine Energy Group said it plans to build two waste-to-energy plants in the U.S. Virgin Islands at a total cost of $440 million.

U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. John deJongh said in a news release that the plants would be the first in the territory to use a source other than fossil fuels to generate energy or to purify water. DeJongh said the facilities could also help the islands solve problems of excess solid waste that have prompted fines from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Alpine signed two 20-year power-purchase agreements with the nonprofit Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA) to supply electricity to residents of St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas, in addition to two 20-year deals to manage the solid waste for the government-run Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority (WMA).

Alpine plans to begin construction in May 2010 in St. Thomas and St. Croix, with expected completion in the fourth quarter of 2012. The 33-megawatt plant in Long Point, St. Thomas, is expected to serve residents of that island as well as St. John. St. Croix is expected to have a dedicated 16-MW plant in the Anguilla area near the Krause Lagoon.

Under the agreements, Alpine plans to generate steam and electric power by disposing of 146,000 tons per year of municipal solid waste. Alpine’s WastAway Services technology combines the refuse-derived fuel with petroleum coke.

The WAPA and WMA both issued requests for proposals in 2007 to solve the problems caused by rising fuel costs and increasing demand for landfill space, deciding to collabrate in 2008. WAPA serves 66,000 customers in St. Croix, St. John, St. Thomas, Water Island, and Hassel Island.

According the the U.S. Energy Information Adminsitration, the per capita energy consumption in the U.S. Virgin Islands was more than five times that of the United States in 2006.

Almost all the U.S. territory’s electricity comes from oil-fired generators, which source 80 percent of their fuel from Hovensa, a crude oil refinery in St. Croix that is among the 10 largest in the world. Hovensa has a capacity of 500,000 barrels per day. The island is also home to a facility that dehydrates ethanol from Brazil so that it can be shipped the U.S.

The EIA notes that the territory has potential for wind energy generation because of class 4 winds on its major islands, as well as class 3 on smaller islands. In addition, the government recently awarded a grant to install a 30-kilowatt photovoltaic system on a hospital.

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St. John Virgin Islands: Tropical Update

Looks like TD2 (Tropical Depression Two) will soon become, Tropical Storm Ana, the first named storm of the Atlantic Hurricane season.

But the one to watch, according to Dr. Jeff Masters in his Wonder Blog, is the strong tropical wave located just off the coast of Africa.

“A strong tropical wave with some rotation and plenty of heavy thunderstorm activity left the coast of Africa yesterday, and is located a few hundred miles south of the Cape Verdes Islands. The GFS and ECMWF models continue to predict the development of this wave late this week. Both of these models indicate that the wave would track further south than Tropical Depression Two, and could impact the Lesser Antilles Islands in about seven days. This storm bears close attention over the coming days,” writes Dr. Masters.

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St.John Virgin islands: Caribbean Workshops – Press Release

On St. John, USVI, you can have an assortment of workshops that will increase your awareness for the healing of your body, to learn about videography, artistic endeavors, or about sustainable living.  You will have professional guidance from instructors that are sharing their expertise to help your development while enjoying island time.  These classes begin with the Caribbean Digital Film Workshop in November 2009.  This workshop offers you a chance to learn how to get more performance from your camera, how to edit a short movie that will make your audience pay attention, or how to create a documentary and sell it. The featured teachers are Steve Simonsen, Bill Stelzer, Andrea Leland and Laurel Chiten.  Please see the website, www.zemicaribbeanworkshops. For more details on this interesting workshop, call 340 642 2424.  Seating is limited and you will need to reserve your space early by providing a small deposit.  Sign up in September and receive a discount.

January 9th-16th 2010 will be Healing Modalities that will be about understanding yourself as a spiritual being while practicing yoga, Chinese medicine, astrology and visualizations to bring about balance and harmony.  These exceptional instructors have been facilitating workshops for several years, bringing to participants, new levels of understanding to healing their bodies and preventative medicine.  Louise Olivi, Dr. May Trieu, Kelley Hunter, Viki Brown, Suki Buchalter, and Carla Murray will be the instructors.

Healing Alchemy will be January 23rd-29th 2010.  Rick Barrett will share the practice of Tai Chi Alchemy during the week and you will experience a total immersion into this profound practice.  This workshop attracts martial artists, energy healers, meditators, and seekers of wisdom who are willing to park their egos and engage in loving exploration of the universal principles that guide energy and consciousness.  Tai Chi is the Chinese symbol of the cosmic dance of polarities, and Alchemy seeks to transform and transcend the seemingly intractable through conscious interaction of diverse elements. Sometimes when an airplane experiences turbulence, the pilot will fly to a higher altitude to get above the storm.  The flight is then smoother and more efficient.  TCA takes you to a higher altitude where it’s possible to get a better perspective on things and also provides tools to help find it on your own.  Each week will include yoga, dance and lots of joy.

“The first night I asked for it all and I was given it all and more.  This weekend I became more fully me than ever…feel empowered and humbled at the same time.” Valarie, CA

“Many thanks for a most memorable and mind-expanding experience with a fabulous group.” Peggy, TX

Zemi Caribbean Workshops will have Artistic Endeavors Feb. 27th to March 6th and Sustainable Living April 3rd to the 10th 2010
Email viki@zemicaribbeanworkshops for information, or call  340 642 2424.
Also see for free community workshops.

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St. John Virgin Islands: Tropical Depression Two Formed in the Atlantic

Tropical Depression Two has formed out of the strong tropical wave off the coast of Africa we’ve been watching, and has a good chance of becoming the Atlantic hurricane season’s first named storm. Satellite loops of the storm show that heavy thunderstorm activity is increasing near the storm’s center.

Atlantic Will Produce Tropical Storm Soon
By Ron Scherer | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor from the August 11, 2009 edition

New York – The tropics are about to heat up – in a stormy sort of way.

The Atlantic’s first tropical storm of the year will be named shortly, meteorologists say. And at least two more storms could form in the next two to three weeks, according to some computer forecasts. What this means is that residents living along the East Coast will need to pay attention to the weather forecast.

“We will be getting to the peak of the tropical season over the next two months,” says Brian Edwards, a meteorologist at “By [Wednesday] morning, we could have our first named storm.”

The first name for a storm this year will be Ana.

Currently, a storm system is a few hundred miles southwest of the Cape Verde Islands, which are off the coast of Africa. Even if it becomes tropical storm Ana, it’s not expected to become a full-fledged hurricane. “At this point, it probably would not, but it’s too early to tell,” Mr. Edwards says.

However, to the east of what could become Ana is another, more potent tropical wave – a low-pressure zone over Africa that should emerge into the Atlantic in the next 12 to 24 hours. “Once it’s off the coast, it enters an area that is favorable to development,” he says.

The second system would be entering an Atlantic that is considerably more humid as a result of the first system. This is one reason that some AccuWeather computer models show a powerful storm developing in the next 12 to 15 days. “Some of the models have it going up the East Coast. Some have it going out to sea,” says Edwards.

Yet a third tropical wave is east of the Lesser Antilles. That system could move into the Gulf of Mexico, Edwards says. But, he adds, right now the Caribbean is a very hostile place for hurricane development.

That hostile environment is partly the result of a developing El Niño event. El Niño is when some of the Pacific Ocean’s waters become warmer than normal, affecting the wind currents. Those wind currents can create wind shear in the Caribbean, which inhibits hurricane development in the Atlantic.

The developing El Niño is partly why Philip Klotzbach and William Gray of Colorado State University adjusted their forecast for the Atlantic area a week ago. In June, they called for 11 named storms; now, they’re calling for 10 named storms, two of them major hurricanes. Their work, much of it based on statistical data, shows a slightly reduced hurricane season.

“We think this will be a below-normal hurricane season, comparable to 2002 and 2006,” says Mr. Klotzbach. “In those years, there were no major hurricanes that had a landfall.”

But, he adds, “It only takes one storm in your area for it to be an active hurricane season for you.”

It’s not unusual to have some below-average hurricane years, Klotzbach and Mr. Gray say in their August analysis. But this doesn’t change their view that for the next 10 to 15 years, the Atlantic hurricane seasons will be active.

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St. John Virgin Islands Stories: Take the Money and Run

I once read an article in the New York Times which suggested that the Virgin Islands was “a sunny place for shady people.” I happen to believe that the article was essentially correct, especially for the continentals that inhabit this tropical paradise and even more especially for those continentals living on the island of St. John during the decades of the 1970s and 80s.

I heard this story in upon returning to St. John after an extended hiatus. Neither the principals nor the story teller are presently available for comment or verification and I have no first hand knowledge as per the veracity of this story. Thus, no names. But I have to say that knowing some of the characters on John that have come and gone, it does rings true.

The story, which takes place on St. John in the 1980s goes like this:

One day a husband wife team came to St. John from America to promote a land development project. Their role was to bring together investors and developers, a service for which they expected a significant piece of the pie.

They were young, good looking and fast talking. Notwithstanding, after almost a year of concentrated effort it began to look extremely doubtful that their deal would ever off the ground.

Meanwhile the couple had purchased some land and had just started building. They got as far as the first cistern pour, when apparently the stress of building, the stress of their business failure and the stress that seems to be inherent in many St. john relationships began to effect their marriage, which soon came apart at the seems.

The man left the island and the woman stayed on hooking up with a guy who was a talented carpenter and builder. Together the two lovebirds worked diligently on the construction of the house, which she and her ex had begun.

When the house was just about finished, this relationship also went on the rocks, and the lady kicked the boyfriend out of the house. Having no more reason to be on St. John, her  boyfriend returned to the states.

Shortly thereafter the end of the affair, the lady’s husband returned. They patched up their differences,  got back together,  sold the newly completed house, and left the island.

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Virgin Islands Stories: The Mechanic

It was the summer of 1969 and I was still living on St. Thomas. At the time I was driving an old Willys Jeep. Although usually extremely dependable, one day the old jeep began to have some rather serious problems that needed the attention of a professional. I was then living on St. Thomas’ Northside and I had a neighbor, a big, bearded, white boy named Norman, who was an excellent mechanic and not too expensive. I called Norman and the jeep and I limped over to Norman’s house and deposited the jeep inside the detached garage where Norman did his automotive repair work. The garage lay at the end of a steep, crumbling, concrete driveway and I knew that it wouldn’t get back up that road until it’s problems were solved.

I secured Norman’s promise to start work right away and went about my business – on foot.

I don’t remember what the problem with the jeep was exactly, but it must have been serious enough, because when I returned the next day there were jeep parts spread all over the garage mixed in with Norman’s tools and, for lack of a better description, “stuff.” It was really quite an impressive mess.

“How’s it goin’, Norman?” I asked.

“Under control,” said Norman.

I had to hand it to Norman, and to all those whose mechanical intelligence so vastly surpasses my own, that he would actually, not only be able to put the jeep back together again, but also to render the old fellow St. Thomas road ready once again.

As I stood in the blazing sunshine outside the wooden garage marveling at the expertise of this mechanical wizard, I saw a black sedan turn off the main road onto the driveway making it’s way towards us. A middle aged black gentleman, who I recognized to be Al Wiltshire, a detective in the employ of the Virgin Islands police force, stepped out of the vehicle.

“Afternoon,” I said

“Afternoon,” he answered. “Norman, I have some bad news for you.”

Norman looked up from his work.

“What’s that Al?”

“I have a warrant for your arrest. Appears to be an old stateside beef. I gotta take you in.”

“No Al! Please, not now! ” I pleaded. “Can’t you just come back later. Let Norman finish up. Please!”

“Sorry, can’t do it. Let’s go Norman.

Norman and Al disappeared into the car leaving me staring at a thousand and one parts, bolts, screws, soda cans and tools and the stripped body of my old jeep.

“Don’t worry,” I heard Norman shout from the open car window. “It’s no big t’ing. Be right back.”

I did bump into Norman again, a little more than a year later, but by that time I had moved on to St. John. The jeep was history, but all else was just fine.

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St. John Virgin Islands in the 1970s: The White Continentals

For many of the white continentals who had the good fortune to experience St. John in the 1970s, that time and place holds a special place in their hearts and souls. The St. John continentals of those days immersed themselves in the physical beauty and simple life style of St. John and became incorporated into the very fabric of St. John culture.

The fact that the uniqueness of this small subculture was something real and not just a satisfying self-perception was shared by none other than Edward A. O’Neill who wrote the book “The Rape of the American Virgins” in 1972.

This is a book was highly critical of greedy continental business interests and corrupt Virgin Islands government officials, resulting in a short-sighted development of the islands having unhealthy economic, ecological and social  consequences.

Moreover, Mr. O’Neill’s overall assessment of the Virgin Islands’ white continental residents  was, shall we say, unsympathetic.

Nonetheless, when the theme turned to the continentals of St. John his tone changed dramatically. In the chapter dealing with St. John, the author wrote:

“Up to now, development (on St. John) has produced little change in the island’s society. The small continental population, about 175 of the island’s present 1,700 residents, has had to become a real part of st. Johnian life – a not too difficult adjustment since the kind of people from the mainland who have settled on St. John came exactly because of the island’s isolation and simplicity, which they strongly want to preserve. Despite their small number, these relative newcomers (few have been here for more than twenty years) play an important local role. Unlike their fellow continentals on St. Thomas and St. Croix, whose attitude generally is “leave it to the natives,” these people, in their shorts and tennis shoes and shifts over bikinis, have been  vigorously working to preserve the unspoiled birthright St. John….”

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St. John Virgin Islands: Hawksnest Bay Snorkel

After revisiting the reefs off of St. John’s Hawksnest Beach, my new opinion is that it is, if not the best, Hawksnest is one of the best “off the beach snorkels” on St. John. As I find more and more of what used to be vibrant and alive coral reefs succumbing to disease and high water temperatures, it seem that the elkhorn coral colony of Hawksnest Bay is still doing well. Although there are signs of coral bleaching and damage from high surf, there is what appears to be a forest of bright yellow elkhorns on the shallow reef.

Snorkelers should exercise caution approaching the shallow areas and avoid touching or, worse yet, standing on the reef, something potentially dangerous to both coral and snorkeler.

In addition to the elkhorns there’s also a great deal of life around the reef, such as lobsters, sea urchin, colorful sponges, several species of fish, tube worms, rays and turtles to name a few.

Underwater Hawksnest photos by Ray Armon


Elkhorn Coral
Elkhorn Coral

Sea Fan
Sea Fan




Southern Sting Ray
Southern Sting Ray


Elkhorn Forest
Elkhorn Forest
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St. John Virgin Islands: Antigua’s Birthday Present to Barack Obama

The Prime Minister of the Caribbean nation of Antigua, Baldwin Spencer, yesterday re-christened the highest mountain in Antigua in honor of the US President. The celebration coincided with Mr. Obama’s 48th birthday.

The tree covered 1300 foot high mountain, formerly known as Boggy Peak, was renamed Mount Obama and will become a national park.

A stone sculpture at the base of the mountain supports a plaque reading, “Mount Obama, named in honor of the historical election on Nov. 4, 2008, of Barack Hussein Obama, the first black president of the United States of America, as a symbol of excellence, triumph, hope and dignity for all people.”

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