A full two thirds of respondents to an online survey conducted by the Coral Bay Community Council say they don’t feel prepared for the 2018 hurricane season that began at the start of June.
Coral Bay, St. John, was one of the areas in the Virgin Islands hardest hit by Hurricane Irma in September 2017. With predictions calling for an average to active 2018 storm season, the CBCC created its 24-question survey in May with the goal of finding out where things stand with Coral Bay residents, many of whom said they felt neglected in the aftermath of Irma and Maria.
The survey included questions about homes and infrastructure, priorities, ratings of assistance and insurance, and personal situations and long-term goals.
“We wanted to get the complete results out as fast as possible,” said CBCC’s president Sharon Coldren. “We hope the information will be useful and inspiring to government agencies, relief organizations and individuals in prioritizing actions we can take.”
More than 60 percent of the survey’s 178 respondents were full time residents of St. John, with the rest a mixture of winter residents, repeat visitors, and vacation rental owners.
According to the most recent U.S. census of the Virgin Islands, 634 people resided in the Coral Bay subdistrict in 2010, with another 51 people residing on the island’s east end, where residents were also invited to participate in the CBCC survey.
More than 70 percent of respondents to the CBCC survey were over the age of 55.
A news release from the CBCC said the survey results were divided into full time residents, vacation rental owners and business owners to see if there was a difference in perspectives on the recovery among those groups.
“There are some differences in perspectives, but overall people have the same priorities,” the release states.
Unsurprisingly, the survey found that almost all respondents suffered some damage to their homes and business in 2017’s back-to-back category 5 storms. But, while only 33 percent said they feel prepared to face down another storm, nearly 70 percent reported they are making steady recovery progress, and only 12 percent say they have no safe place to stay during any storms that might arrive in 2018.
However, 36 percent of respondents said they have no reliable way to reach 911 today due to lack of any reliable communications at their home – cell, internet or landline. According to the CBCC this is also making rental owners nervous for their visitors, who cannot use their cell phones due to currently limited service areas.
The survey found that debris removal remains a pressing concern in the Coral Bay area – both to avoid the debris causing damage in future storms, and to put on a good face for tourism. About 88 percent of respondents said removal of debris piles from roadsides is still an immediate need nine months after the hurricanes, while 76 percent said removal of debris from private property is an immediate need.
Respondents did not rank their experiences with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) highly. Over half ranked their FEMA experiences as poor, partially OK, or OK, while only 23 percent ranked their experiences as pretty good or excellent.
CBCC itself received high marks from respondents for its efforts to help in Coral Bay’s recovery. More than 85 percent rated the assistance given by CBCC after the hurricanes as pretty good or excellent.
“More analysis and the open-ended comments may be added to the website and in future reports later, and we are happy to discuss detailed responses with anyone trying to assist in our overall recovery,” Coldren said.
The results of CBCC’s survey can be viewed at: https://coralbaycommunitycouncil.org/hurricane-recovery-2/survey-hurricane-recovery-status-update-for-coral-bay-st-john-may-2018/
More information is available by contacting Sharon Coldren, CBCC at 340-513-4298.
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