HURRICANE HUGO: VI IMPACT SEPT. 17-18, 1989
As the sun set over the Virgin Islands on September 17, 1989, the long night began.
It had been ten years since the last hurricane struck the Territory and many residents were complacent regarding the approach of Hurricane Hugo.
- On September 4th, 1979, Hurricane Frederick impacted the Virgin Islands with massive flooding.
- Only six days before, on August 30, 1979, Hurricane David's brush with the islands had saturated the soil. The combined result was tremendous mud and rock slides with many old-growth trees being destroyed.
- The 1980's hosted several tropical storm events and even spawned a hurricane between Charlotte Amalie Harbor and Culebra that went on to double-hit Puerto Rico.
But Hugo proved different.
It raced towards the Virgins at 12 mph and, like any island visitor, decided to stop and stay for a while. Forward progress ground to a measly 8 mph and the storm hovered over the area for 12 hours. The eye scored a direct hit on St. Croix. Sustained winds were recorded at 140 mph with gusts as strong as 220 mph (Nov. 30, 1989 NWS reporting).
Within hours over 10,000 poles were down on St. Croix and 6,000 on St. Thomas and St. John. All power and communications to St. John were cut off. 19,000 telephones (95%) were out of service on St. Croix and 17,000 phones (78%) were off in the St. Thomas-St. John District.
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In the days and weeks following the ravages of Hurricane Hugo, Virgin Islands kept citing one unifying force that kept things together during the long night. They praised "A Friend in the Dark" who broadcast a beacon of hope that carried people through the worst beatings of the storm.
That friend was a radio station assigned the simple call sign: WSTA 1340 AM.
Virgin Islands decided after Hurricane Hugo to say "Thank You" to Addie Ottley and his WSTA crew. On December 3, 1989, residents, business owners and government officials gathered in Emancipation Gardens to celebrate our Friend in the Dark.
The following link will let you view and download the 1989 WSTA Appreciation Day Booklet in PDF with historic interviews and information from Hurricane Hugo's impact.