DC-area business owner hit by Hurricane Maria

One local business owner said it's the Virgin Islands community that pulled things together.

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) - Around 100-miles from Puerto Rico and are the Virgin Islands. They were severely damaged by hurricanes Maria and Irma, too. 

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One local business owner said it’s the Virgin Islands community that pulled things together. Now he’s calling on the DMV community to help them.

Paradise. That was Jost Van Dyke, the smallest of the main British Virgin Islands. If you've ever been, there's a good chance you stopped by the famous Soggy Dollar Bar and had a Painkiller, or stayed at Sandcastle hotel. 

Hurricane Maria left the hotel destroyed on Jost, the tiny island of some 300 or more people.

"We're the largest employers on Jost Van Dyke, and we employ about 25-people … which is almost 10% of our island, are without work,” said Montgomery County’s Jerry O'Connell.

O’Connell raised his children in Potomac and owns property in the Virgin Islands. Those 25-people without work is the real impact of just his hotel alone.

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"After Irma, we had an amazing response from FEMA, National Guard, the Navy,” and the American Red Cross, O’Connell said.

However, after Hurricane Maria, some have called the British lack of response to the Virgin Islands “frightening.”

Using whatever means they have, rebuilding started with the locals.

O'Connell said some 70 locals from Jost and nearby Islands pitched-in and last weekend, helped reopen the Soggy Dollar Bar.

He said this and supply donations from the Bloomberg Group or the Kenney Chesney Foundation are their lifeline. Chesney sings about Jost Van Dyke in a song.

O'Connell teamed up with the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation hoping the DMV can also pitch in.

"It's amazing how many people are willing to help. It's fantastic,” O’Connell tells WUSA 9.

RELATED: D.C. family moves to Virgin Islands before Hurricane Irma

The Virgin Island Water and Power Authority said Sections of St. John will receive an initial wave of service restoration by next week, just to give you an idea of the long recovery process there.

However, the Montgomery County bar and hotel owner said the most crucial part would come in a few months.

"The first cruise ship, I believe, is coming to Saint Thomas in the first week of December – that's what we need, we need the people to come back,” he said.  

http://www.soggydollar.com/

© 2017 WUSA-TV


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