September 17th of 2014 marked 25 years since Hurricane Hugo paid a visit to St. Croix. There are thousands of St. Croix residents, past and present, who lived through the harrowing experience that is now known as “HUGO”. Back in September 1989, Hurricane Hugo swept through the territory with 200 mile per hour winds, destroying 85% of homes and businesses on the island of St. Croix, and 70% on St. Thomas (statistics from the Daily News).
FULL DISCLOSURE: Back in those days I was thinking about far less serious things than saving my life, like college and boyfriends and road trips. Hugo was a storm I remember seeing in the news. It would be 10 more years before I moved to St. Croix. These days, with my life and livelihood fully embedded in all things St. Croix, the storm I didn’t experience can still be seen in the landscape. I wanted to start my day by acknowledging the hardships that our island residents experienced.
My husband Tom is a 30+ year resident who wears the badge of “Hugo Survivor”, and he remembers listening to the roof being peeled off the house he chose as shelter for the storm. The next night, he slept on the floor of his Christiansted restaurant, The Bombay Club, the exact spot he pointed out to me just yesterday. He would live there for a week before the roads were cleared to get back to what remained of “home”. The restaurant fed many friends and neighbors with food that would otherwise spoil from lack of electricity for refrigeration. It would be 2 months until his next hot shower. Many lost their homes and could not afford to rebuild. Others with insurance and fortitude began to put their lives and businesses back together, or start all over again. There are so many stories, like these, and worse, that are still discussed day-in and day-out here on St. Croix, the storm literally became a permanent reference point like the birth of Christ. “Before Hugo.” “After Hugo”. It also changed how we live for the better: stricter building codes, better building materials, and improved emergency management services, to name a few ways.
It is easy to find photos and video of devastated St. Croix all over the internet, it’s there if you are looking for it. I have chosen not to post them here on GoToStCroix.com, a site that celebrates St. Croix as it is TODAY. If you want to see what destruction looks like, turn on the news media for the latest town, city, or country that is the latest to suffer from the wrath of Mother Nature. Here on St. Croix we can give thanks that our natural forces are hurricanes, which are trackable for a week in advance, giving us ample time to prepare. In a way, we have it easy. Weather apps send a text message to my iphone each weather forecast update. That is simply not the case for the millions that are ‘surprised’ when going about their daily business, their lives are forever changed by a sudden and unanticipated weather event like an earthquake, flood, tornado, brush fire, or tsunami. Fortunately we have not seen another storm as destructive as Hugo come through the US Virgin Islands, but we watch with heavy hearts as elsewhere in the world it begins all over again. Let us acknowledge how far St. Croix has come, and how the spirit of this island community kept it alive in the aftermath of a most devastating natural disaster. Here’s to those that lived and lost during Hugo. Hugo Day is a day you’ll never forget, but certainly you deserve to be remembered.
Stay cool when the power goes out, because it will.
Consider a donation to the Red Cross – www.redcross.org.
– Wendy Solomon, Owner of GoToStCroix.com