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NEWS | Sept. 19, 2017

With Hurricane Maria on the way, Virgin Islands Guard chaplain reinforces resilience

By 1st Lt. Kirk Rojas Virgin Islands National Guard

ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands - The U.S. Virgin Islands was devastated 13 days ago by Hurricane Irma, and while the community and the Virgin Islands National Guard brace themselves for the potential impact of mammoth Hurricane Maria, Capt. Dion Christopher, VING chaplain, spent Sunday reinforcing hope and resiliency among Soldiers and Airmen serving in the territory.

On Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center said hurricane warnings are in effect for the islands of Guadeloupe, St. Kitts, Nevis and Montserrat, as well as for the British and U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

"Maria is forecast to remain an extremely dangerous Category 4 or 5 hurricane while it approaches the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico."

Maria was located Tuesday morning about 85 miles west of the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, moving west-northwest at about 9 miles per hour, according to the NHC. The storm's winds were measured at 160 mph.

Hurricane forecasters said Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands could see water levels rise 6 to 9 feet, "if the peak surge occurs at the time of high tide." The Leeward Islands and the British Virgin Islands could see water levels rise "by as much as 7 to 11 feet above normal tide levels."

But on Sunday, Chaplain Christopher visited the distribution points across the island of St. Thomas to speak with the Soldiers and Airmen manning the points since the Category 5 storm hit the island on Sept. 6.

"I'm just basically going to spend a few moments with them in a very brief devotional time and do whatever sort of encouragement and morale boosting that may be necessary," Christopher said.

Prior to opening the points to the public, Christopher gathered the distribution teams on site around him, to include local government agency officials, in order to share a message with them.

"I'm fundamentally going to be sharing with them a message of hope," he said.

Christopher went on to interact with the community members lined up and down the block waiting for food and water to share positive words with them as well.

The Soldiers and Airmen continue to provide assistance to local agencies in response to Hurricane Irma and prepare for Hurricane Maria.

Contributing: Steve Marshall of the National Guard Bureau



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