ST. CROIX, Virgin Islands – After Hurricanes Luis and Marilyn in 1995 damaged or destroyed more than 21,000 Virgin Islands homes, FEMA granted about $30 million through its Hazard Mitigation Grant Program to assist the islands’ recovery. A portion of that grant funded the Home Protection Roofing Program, a vital element of the islands’ post-disaster mitigation plan.
Example of a HPRP integral gutter
More than 20 years later, in the wake of Irma and Maria, a FEMA Mitigation Assessment Team visited the islands. One goal was to examine a sample of those roofs on St. Thomas to see how well they fared in the two latest hurricanes.
The result: no structural damage was observed in homes with the new roof design. Additionally, the team visited approximately 75 homes containing integral gutters, a mitigation effort to avoid what happened in 1995, when gutters broke loose and became destructive scythes. None of the new integral gutters broke loose. The integral gutters weren’t even damaged, the team reported.
“This program was a success,” said Jonathan Westcott, a civil engineer and member of the Virgin Islands Mitigation Assessment Team.
One team member, architect Tom Smith, said, “We’re really pleased with the performance we’re seeing out of these buildings.” Smith was one of the original architects who developed the roof-modification design specifications.
Some members of the inspection team said they consider the greatest post-Marilyn accomplishment to be advancements in the U.S. Virgin Islands’ building code. Prior to Marilyn, the code requirement for wind resistance was weak, but following FEMA’s post-storm recommendation, the U.S. Virgin Islands adopted the 1994 Uniform Building Code, which requires significantly more wind resistance.
As a result, although Hurricanes Irma and Maria were more severe than Marilyn, buildings that were repaired or constructed under the 1994 code showed far less roof damage from Irma and Maria than structures built before 1994.
Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-3362 (voice, 711/VRS - Video Relay Service) (TTY: 800-462-7585). Multilingual operators are available (press 2 for Spanish).
FEMA’s mission is helping people before, during, and after a disaster.
For official information on the recovery effort following the hurricanes, please visit www.informusvi.com or www.usviupdate.com. Follow us on social media at twitter.com/femaregion2 and www.facebook.com/FEMAUSVirginIslands.
To donate or volunteer, contact the voluntary or charitable organization of your choice through the National Voluntary Agencies Active in Disasters (NVOAD) at www.nvoad.org. For those who wish to help, cash donations offer voluntary agencies the most flexibility in obtaining the most-needed resources and pumps money into the local economy to help businesses recover. The Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands also has the “Fund for the Virgin Islands” at www.USVIrecovery.org.