Yep, collapsed canopies, buildings torn in twain, massive trees toppled: this is just a taste of the destruction. I'd post more but we're not doing so great Internet-wise. This is actually where this post is going.
Our lives here in the USVI have changed for quite a while. The question we need to ask ourselves is are we going to be working towards what we used to have or are we going to work for something better. While we figure out where we plan to go we're all kinda getting used to the new normal.
Currently (This pun is intentional) St. Thomas is projected to be 90% powered by December. I'd say right now that number is about 58% but that's just me guessing. Restoration of power though opens to door all the creature comforts we used to have but now have to do without. We were very fortunate some business were back on their feet within a couple weeks, but there are quite a few who need more time to get back on their feet and even those who have decided getting back in the race isn't worth it.
The most significant impact these storms had on us was destabilizing our communications systems. Take as an example the local phone and cable company. So many downed lines means rebuilding those connections starting with the landline phones. It seems at the moment we're going with the tried and true lines on the poles (BTW many thanks to our linemen and the visiting linemen. If not for them we've probably be about only half as restored as we are now). In response to the lack of landlines, our local phone company has gone hard on wireless communications. This response also includes Internet service. Before the storm their service came through the same lines as phone and Cable TV. With the estimation that Cable TV won't be back until late next year you can guess what that means for their other services. I have a couple predictions for the future here. Movie theaters would be a great boon here...except for the fact that the only theater on St. Thomas was damaged and is in need of major renovation. I was even inspired to attempt to open my own small movie theater to fill the void. It's not something I've quite let go yet; still rattling around the old brain cage. I do expect that Internet service (and I mean QUALITY Internet service) will become the hottest thing to acquire. Why? Netflix. Hulu. Amazon. Heck, even Crackle. People who can't go the satellite dish way or can't make it economically feasible will look to streaming services to fill the entertainment void as well as keep them in the loop on their favorite TV shows. Streaming rental services will boom too. It's sort of what PPV is for Cable.
The most significant impact these storms have had on the territory is the hit we're taking to tourism which is our #1 economy. Many of the huge chain resorts have been forced to close for renovation. Even the Marriott Frenchman's Reef, a mainstay on St. Thomas for many years and survivor of previous hurricanes that ravaged the territory, succumbed. They're looking at over $400 million to repair and a downtime of a year and a half. That means a lot of job losses around the territory. We can get the cruise industry traffic back up as quickly as we can restore power but hotels were a major source of revenue.
The reality of our situation is although help is on the way, we still need time to prop back up the infrastructure. Now more than ever we're going to need to get creative on revenue generators and job creators. In a time when we need to hear these ideas all I've been hearing is more of the same. Getting us back to where we were isn't going to be enough. We're going to have to try something new.
As for me, I was very fortunate. I escaped both storms without major loss, I have power and something that passes for Internet service, I'm still employed and now I have karaoke. Like everyone else, I keep looking for ways to contribute and make things just a little better for everyone.
If you're reading this and want to know how YOU can help with the recovery, just let me know. I can put you in touch with people running distribution centers or I can simply distribute myself. There's also a number of very popular Facebook groups that will put you in direct contact with people living in and recovering the territory. Leave me a comment and I'll point you in the right direction.