Heavy rains trigger flash flooding on St. Croix

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ST. CROIX - Heavy downpours and ground already saturated by days of rainfall triggered flash flooding across St. Croix on Wednesday afternoon, with water rapidly rising over roadways in some areas and guts running like rivers.

V.I. Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls said Wednesday afternoon that crews were out working the flooded areas as needed, but he did not have any reports of road closures.

"Obviously, we had the heavy downpour in the short amount of time, so you did see flooding," Smalls said.

"We experienced localized flooding, but once the rains subsided, the waters began to recede."

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood advisory for St. Croix starting at 1:54 p.m. Wednesday. It was lifted at 4:45 p.m. after the rains had started to slow, according to Amaryllis Cotto, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Juan.

St. Croix received an estimated 2 to 4 inches of rain, depending on location, from just after midnight to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Cotto said. St. Thomas had gray skies, but only intermittent showers on Wednesday.

That situation was reversed last weekend, when St. Thomas saw 5 inches of rain over a two-day period and St. Croix saw less than an inch.

Officials warned Wednesday that with the ground already saturated, additional rain today could lead to flash floods again.

"Light to moderate showers will continue through tonight and into most of Thursday, with potential for intermittent periods of heavy downpours," warned the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency in a statement about the flooding on St. Croix released Wednesday night.

That statement urges residents to monitor V.I. Alert for real-time flood advisories.

The VITEMA release noted that its 911 operators on St. Croix had received reports of flooded areas through most of Wednesday afternoon, including areas along Melvin Evans Highway in the vicinity of Home Depot, Estate Strawberry along Queen Mary Highway, Gallows Bay, Melvin Evans Highway near HOVENSA, Sion Farm along Queen Mary Highway and in the area of Lew Muckle Elementary School, Golden Rock in the area of the shopping center and Peter's Rest in the vicinity of Juny's Bar.

Sunny Isle and Barren Spot also had flash flooding.

The V.I. Waste Management Authority released a statement Wednesday evening noting that the heavy rain had produced strong flows of storm and rainwater into the sewer system, overwhelming it in some areas, causing overflows.

"On St. Croix, there have been reports of manholes popping up due to the heavy rush of water through the lines," the statement said. "The heavy flows may exceed the pumping capacity at various pump stations, causing overflows and popped manholes in certain areas."

The statement urged motorists to use extreme caution when traveling flooded roadways and areas where manholes are known to overflow.

It also asked residents to avoid areas with standing water.

Smalls said Public Works crews would remain on standby overnight.

Liz Goggins, spokeswoman for St. Croix Rescue, said the volunteer organization's members were also on alert, ready to respond if they were needed.

The National Weather Service forecast for today for the territory predicted scattered showers and thunderstorms with a 50 percent chance of rain.

- Contact Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or email jblackburn@dailynews.vi.

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