Local pilot delivers much-needed aid to hurricane-stricken St. Croix

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — WFLA previously told you about a pilot with St Pete Air who began delivering donations to St Croix after Hurricane Maria slammed into the US Virgin Islands.

Leslee Lacey recently followed her to the devastated US territory, to see how local help is making a difference.

When Category 5 Hurricane Maria unleashed her wrath on the tiny island that Jennifer Lockwood still calls home half the year, she knew immediate help was needed. Friends were describing the scene. No power, no internet, no gas, and many trapped in their homes. So Jennifer hit the air and Leslee tagged along.

This 10-seater plane looked small at Albert Whitted Airport, but Leslee reports it made a huge difference when no commercial airlines could land on the devastated island of St Croix.

“As soon as the airplane came up on the island and we could see the destruction it was heartbreaking,” described Lockwood.

Lockwood’s tarps, generators and chain saws were just a few items that became direct lifelines for these Virgin Island Americans, who call themselves Crucians.

Mike Ziegler owns Ziggy’s Gas Station. It has become a hub for community gatherings and communication with relief agencies. He says over around a third of the gas stations on the island were out of service after Maria hit. We are at two-and- a-half weeks after Maria arrived.

“Less than 10 percent of the island has power, and for the first week zero percent of the island had power. So, the only way people had power is if they had a generator,” said Mike.

With no mail coming in or out of the post office, and many gas stations destroyed or damaged, Lockwood’s deliveries had a huge impact on the community. She delivered a special part to Ziegler, that let his station get pumping again.

“It changed the lives of not only us for business, but everybody who relies on us. We had a 4-hour curfew.” explained Ziegler. “It would take somebody two and half hours just to get gas for their generators. So, if they needed to get food or anything else it really limited them.”

Once the pumps were up and running Ziegler says 350 people received gasoline.” Since then the curfew has been relaxed into the evening hours.

Gasoline is important for transportation to get relief and supplies. But it’s also needed to run many generators and chain saws, both of which were immediately needed after the storm.

“The one chainsaw that Jen handed to me and numerous other people in different parts of the island, probably cleared two roads and cut six people out of homes,” said Ziegler.

Jennifer Loliva transplanted herself from New York to St Croix almost 20 years ago. Her father lives with her and is a stroke victim. Loliva says she needs to keep his medication refrigerated.

Loliva and her family was so grateful to Lockwood for the much-needed generator, that her children drew pictures and wrote Lockwood a thank you letter.

“We have two fans, the refrigerator and running water,” cheered Loliva. She is expected to be out of power for months.

Lockwood continues to aid with contributions to St Croix and is now a volunteer liaison between the states and St Croix. It’s been more than three weeks since Maria hit and many people in St Croix are expected to be without power for months.

FEMA and the Army Corp of Engineers tells me what the really need are able bodies and more licensed contractors to aid in rebuilding people’s lives. People who want to volunteer can contact FEMA.

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