By Lisa ParkerFebruary 16, 2018
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) announced that it had completed its temporary power mission in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Feb. 12, 2018.
The U.S. Virgin Islands were in the direct paths of hurricanes Irma and Maria and these storms devastated the three islands of St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John. More than 100,000 residents were impacted across the territory and more than 185 mile-per-hour winds ripped apart century old trees, bringing down power lines and snapping utility poles in half and stripping all vegetation bare; and approximately 500 boats were sunk in the harbors. Critical public facilities such as airports, police stations, fire stations, schools, medical facilities and both hospitals were heavily damaged.
These impacts critically prevented vital government services to the residents of the Virgin Islands.
USACE Task Force Virgin Islands had been mission assigned by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide temporary power to critical public facilities such as: schools, police stations, fire stations, waste water treatment plants, water pump stations and hospitals. USACE temporary power uses FEMA assigned generators to provide connectivity to essential services.
USACE installed 180 generators across the three Virgin Islands. Many of the generators were barged in between the two hurricanes and were held at the incident support base (ISB). Early on during the response and recovery operations many necessary items were staged at the ISB; generators, water, meals ready to eat, tarps and gasoline.
The ISB housed the USACE Tulsa, Memphis, and Honolulu Power teams and contractors that installed the generators. Inside the ISB different size generators had been de-installed and were staged and waiting for transport to the barge the Bahama Express. The delivery of the vessel, Bahama Express on February 8, 2018 marked the final barge operations to return generators back to FEMA's staging areas within Puerto Rico and the continental U.S.
"This experience was very rewarding because we were able to help people obtain essential services within their community. This was my first time to deploy and be part of the temporary power team mission and I am motivated to help people that are impacted by future disasters." said Arnold Gelacio, USACE Honolulu District, Action Officer and Mission Liaison.
Hundreds of USACE personnel that are part of Planning and Response Teams rotated throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands providing critical FEMA missions that were assigned to USACE such as: temporary blue roof, debris removal, critical public facilities, infrastructure assessments, and temporary power.
"We all worked together as a team to provide power to various facilities. It was great working with a team of individuals to achieve a successful mission close out. It was a rewarding experience working for the people of the Virgin Islands, Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority, Louis Berger, Haugland Energy, and many facility representatives. Together we were able to facilitate power solutions on St. Croix." said Michele Murray, USACE Honolulu District, Quality Assurance (QA).
Missions of this kind are a necessary stop-gap to allow power companies the time they need to restore primary power infrastructure. That's why USACE focuses on critical facilities and services.