PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — When Hurricane Maria swept across the U.S. Virgin Islands, it brought the indescribable.
“It’s hard for me to tell you how devastating it is,” says Col. John Lloyd, of the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers Pittsburgh office.
Col. Lloyd, who is from Upper St. Clair, is leading the Corps’ efforts to restore power to the islands. He weathered the hurricane huddled in a St. Croix hotel. When he emerged the next day, he found scenes across the Virgin Islands that were hard to believe.
“On St. John’s, I just saw complete homes disintegrated from the storm. One house next to another house may be completely leveled, and the one next to it may have just a little damage to the roof,” he said.
On St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix, families have no choice but to remain in shelters.
Col. Lloyd says, “Most of these homes are not inhabitable either structurally or because the roofs are ripped off, and we’ve had some heavy rains the last couple nights.”
By day, the residents are standing in long lines for the basics – food, water, and fuel.
“All those things are adding up on people’s nerves and people’s patience. And everything is operating on a cash basis. Due to a lack of power, its difficult for the ATMs to be operating, so everything just becomes a little bit harder,” Col. Lloyd said.
Still, each day, the colonel says there are signs of progress. Roads and debris are being cleared. Generators are being brought in by the Corps. to restore some power.
“We are getting after it as fast as we can to do some of these programs to bring some normalcy to the islands,” he said.
The damage to Puerto Rico is delaying much-needed supply flights from getting into the islands, and Col. Lloyd says the effort to restore power will be measured in months.
While his days are filled from dawn to dusk with the work of trying to help the people of the islands, he’s getting calls and messages from home concerned about his own welfare.
“It’s appreciated, and I can assure you I’m fine. Don’t worry about me. I’m staying focused on the people here in the Virgin Islands, that’s what I’m here to do,” said Col. Lloyd.