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Redlands Disaster Council hears firsthand account of hurricane aftermath in Virgin Islands

By in Press Enterprise on October 24, 2017

By Sandra Emerson

What Hurricane Irma didn’t destroy in the U.S. Virgin Islands last month, Hurricane Maria did, according to Shannon Kendall, emergency services coordinator for the Loma Linda and Colton fire departments, who spent 22 days in the islands assisting during the aftermath of the hurricanes.

“Everywhere you looked there was devastation,” said Kendall, who recounted his deployment to members of the Redlands Disaster Council Monday at City Hall.

Kendall, a member of the American Red Cross San Bernardino County Board of Directors, deployed with the American Red Cross last month to Saint Thomas following Hurricane Irma, which ravaged the islands. While there, Hurricane Maria hit.

This image made from video shows damage from Hurricane Irma in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Ian Brown)

“Whatever was left, the infrastructure, if anything was left (Maria) took it out,” Kendall said. “Anything that had been done up to that point to try to restore power and get the roads cleared, it put everything back to zero.”

Resources were limited and communication was difficult. The majority of structures, including the hospital, were destroyed and power lines were downed all over the island.

“A boiled water advisory was in effect the entire time I was there,” he said. “It’s still in effect three weeks after getting back and they still don’t have complete power.”

A boiled water advisory is put in place as a safety precaution advising residents to boil water before use because it may be contaminated by bacteria.

In addition to the destruction caused by the storms, there were challenges while working in the Emergency Operations Center, Kendall said, from communication and coordination difficulties to inter-agency issues.

“There was a lot more politics than I thought there would be,” he said. “I thought that agencies would just work together and do the right thing and get […]    

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