While the Caribbean Weather Center in downtown Road recorded a maximum gust of only 55mph, at Cable & Wireless’ facility approximately 1500ft up at Chalwell two maximum gusts of 185mph and sustained winds well in excess of 100mph were reported for more than 3 hours from midday onwards.
Lenny headed east-southeastward, its motion in part due to the southern portion of a deep-layer trough over the western Atlantic. On November 15, Lenny intensified to hurricane strength while south of Jamaica, and reached Category 2 strength later that day. However, the small inner core was disrupted by environmental changes, and Lenny weakened back to a poorly-organized Category 1.
Property Damage in the Virgin Islands
Hurricane Lenny first made landfall on Saint Croix in the Virgin Islands. The unprotected southwest side of the island suffered hours of heavy rain accumulating to 8 inches, 155 mph winds, intense waves, and a 15 foot storm surge. Strong winds and the rainfall impacted the agricultural sector, while many boats on the north side of the island either sank or washed ashore. Though damage was heavy, it was not extreme, and no deaths were reported.
With a normal east to west moving hurricanes, the strongest winds are usually experienced in the NW segment of the system. With a “reverse” hurricane like Lenny, the strongest winds were in the SE quadrant and since Lenny tracked south of the Virgin Islands, the BVI was spared the full wrath of Lenny. When Lenny was some 80 miles southeast of the BVI, the trough that had been to the east of the Leewards had closed and Lenny met instead weak high pressure which caused it to stall and meander back and forth between St. Maarten and St. Bart’s. It was this meandering over a 24 hour period that brought extensive destruction to St. Maarten and Anguilla.
Lenny later hit Saint Martin, Anguilla, Saint-Barthélemy, and Antigua while drifting through the Leeward Islands. Torrential rainfall was reported in these islands, with a maximum of 27.56 inches on St. Martin. The flooding led to mudslides, contributing to the destruction of numerous houses. Extensive storm surge, strong winds, and 12 foot waves caused significant beach erosion on their west coasts, the side rarely affected by a landfalling hurricane.
Due to its large circulation, Lenny also affected Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, the Grenadines, Barbuda, Martinique, and Montserrat. 20 foot waves pounded the islands, resulting in damaged buildings. Heavy rain and strong winds contributed to 6 deaths among these islands.
In Dominica, for example, hotels along the island’s west coast experienced major damage, with 35% loss of the banana crop and 40% of coastal roads washed out. 95% of the crops in Barbuda were destroyed, while 65% of the island was flooded.
Losses to the British Virgin Islands
The estimate of total damage and losses to economy as a result of the passing of hurricane Lenny was $22,053,963 or about 3.1% of gross domestic product or national income. This suggested that from an estimated gross domestic product of $721,317,895, Hurricane Lenny cost the economy, 11.32 days of production to recover the losses, which occurred in only 8 hours.
The estimate of losses to the economy suggests 24.4% or $5.4m in productivity losses, 25.3% or $5.6m in damage to and destruction of assets, 37.1% or $8.2m in losses due to interruptions to businesses and 13.2% or $2.9m in lost wages and salaries to workers.
According to estimates, damage to assets in the goods producing sectors amounted to 8.6% and 91.4% in the services producing sectors. In the goods producing sectors there were losses of $485,000 in the agriculture and fishing sectors. The estimate of damage in this area was taken directly from the Assessment Reports of the BVI’s Office of Disaster Preparedness.
Business interruption losses in the services sectors added up to 92.0% or $7.29m of the $10.86m of the total. Losses in the services producing sectors of tourism, financial and distribution amounted to $6.05m or 80.3% of total losses due to closure of businesses.
Lost wages and salaries to employees amounted to $2.9m or 13.2% of total losses to all institutions of the economy. As expected, we estimated lost wages and salaries to be concentrated in the tourism (39.5%) and financial services (33.9%). Lost wages in the government was rather small even though it is the second largest employer. This is so because most employees in government and elsewhere are paid during a hurricane.