Heard on the Hill

Virgin Islands Del. Plaskett is Calm in the Storm

Hurricane Irma batters Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on its way toward mainland U.S.

U.S. Virgin Islands Del. Stacey Plaskett spent Tuesday evening calling relatives back home as Hurricane Irma was bearing down on the territory. (Tom WIlliams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Despite Hurricane Irma causing power outages, destruction, and potential loss of life back home in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Del. Stacey Plaskett was remarkably calm.

She had been up since 4 a.m. in constant contact with her close neighbor to the west, Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon.

That was after calling family and others back home Tuesday evening.

“I made a point of — particularly on St. Thomas and St. John, that we knew were going to get hit — to call older aunts and uncles, and people on their own to see how they are, and I have to tell you after having gone through Hugo in ’89 on St. Croix and Marilyn in ’95 on St. Thomas, Virgin Islanders are enormously prepared.”

Plaskett spent part of her morning giving a floor speech supporting legislation for additional FEMA aid related to Hurricane Harvey hitting Texas and Louisiana, while reminding people that her island is currently being battered and will need help too down the road.

By late morning, the Category 5 storm with sustained winds of 185 miles per hour and gusts to 225 mph was battering the three main islands.

She also met briefly with some National Park Service officials who assured her they would help in any way they could before doing a 45-minute interview with a CQ-Roll Call reporter. Despite the constant television images showing her homeland being hit, she was smiling and courteous.

Plaskett even spent a few moments with one staffer kidding around whether he was OK, and then met another staffer who said she was there to help. Plaskett said she could use all the help she could get with the phones with all the calls coming into the office.

Her district staff was working out of Federal Emergency Management Agency and American Red Cross offices in the territory, having abandoned her district office to get to safer ground. And while her younger children and husband live in D.C., she has older kids back in the territory.

She hopes to return to the islands on Friday via commercial airliner or maybe a military flight.

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