The Blue Roof Program – Help for Victims of Hurricane Irma

Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas.

Our first port of call put us in the capitol city of St Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. I would be remiss if I were to leave out the effects of Hurricane Irma that we viewed on our visit to the island. Next week, I will share some views of the excursion we selected. This week, however, I’d like to mention one program designed to help the residents of this U.S. Territory.

The opening photo shows our first glimpses of the damage caused by Hurricane Irma. Note the fallen chimney and air handling unit on the large building in front. Then look back and to the left to see a two story building with much of its roof gone. Though we saw homes with open roofs, many of the homes and buildings we saw had blue tops covering the damage to the roof as in the image below.

While I was there, I assumed the blue tarps were the quick and expedient way that a home owner protects his property while awaiting repairs. As I started processing these images to share with you, I noticed a sign that I’d captured offering contact information for those affected by the hurricane.

I noticed the bottom item, a phone number to contact the Blue Roof Program. That explained the large number of blue roofs that we saw on our tour. After reading the information found on the FEMA website, it looks like the roof in the opening photo would qualify for the program, but there are other stipulations that may have exempted it from being included. According to the article here dated September 23, 2017, the first residential temporary blue plastic roofing materials were installed on that date.

The image above was captured while we were docking. It was only when I processed it that I noticed some of the buildings protected by the blue plastic tarps. On this side of the island, it seemed there was less damage than on the other side where we saw more damage and more blue tarps. I could be wrong, it was just my impression that the harbor area was less damaged.

The program, administrated by the U.S. Army Corps of engineers, FEMA, and the government of the U.S. Virgin Islands provided homeowners the ability to remain in their homes during what would be a long reconstruction process. The images I captured reflected conditions in late January. How many homes were repaired prior to our arrival, I couldn’t even guess.

Obviously, there was damage that couldn’t be mitigated by the Operation Blue Roof program. Clearly, the building above didn’t have enough roof structure to support a blue tarp. The church below suffered a complete wall blowout, yet the ceiling was undamaged enough to be able to include a blue tarp over much of the roof structure.

Please note that the presence of a blue tarp doesn’t necessarily mean that it was placed there as a result of FEMA assistance or this program. The document I referenced in the link to the FEMA website clearly points out that the program is only open to residences, not other buildings. Apartment buildings are covered if the owner of the apartment applies for assistance and the tenants in the apartment will be able to remain in the structure after the tarp is installed. Buildings like those in the images immediately above and below don’t appear to qualify for assistance, at least not under this program.

I don’t know whether this building was being remodeled before the hurricane or whether it was severely damaged. It was obviously being worked on the day we went by. Given what I read about the Blue Tarp Program, I doubt it qualified for the assistance.

On our tour, we stopped at one souvenir shop. This photo shows only one section of the damaged area inside the store. Though much of the goods didn’t look damaged, the area was taped off, no doubt awaiting insurance action. Next week, a look at our tour to the top of the largest mountain peak on the island of St Thomas. In most browsers, you can click on an image to enlarge it and to scroll through the gallery.

John Steiner



  1. The destruction caused by natural disasters like this can be overwhelming. The pics in comparison are so easily digestible as the view is limited. When the scope of destruction can be seen live, it’s always so much more massive than one can imagine by viewing pics or TV….

    • Our visit was several months after the hurricane and I know our tour traveled on roads that were once washed out but now repaired. I’m sure we also passed buildings that had been damaged and repaired. I was struck by the amount of damage that still remained. Our view of Puerto Rico was much more limited as we only took a short taxi ride. Here on St Thomas, we traversed much of the island on our tour.

  2. Thank you John!☘️

    On Tue, May 1, 2018, 2:09 AM Journeys with Johnbo wrote:

    > photobyjohnbo posted: “Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas. Our first port of call > put us in the capitol city of St Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. I would be > remiss if I were to leave out the effects of Hurricane Irma that we viewed > on our visit to the island. Next week, I will share ” >

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