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Virgin Islands dry out after Otto's wrath

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Heavy rain covers roads with mud debris
  • Resort on St. John cleans up after deluge
  • Hurricane Otto expected to weaken by Monday

(CNN) -- The Virgin Islands returned Saturday to their customary travel poster status, but a closer look beneath the sunshine and palm trees showed mud-caked roads, displaced boats and a resort socked by Tropical Storm Otto.

Residents in the U.S. territory described a veritable torrent of rain between Tuesday afternoon and late Thursday.

Gov. John deJongh Jr. issued an emergency declaration Friday. Roads took a heavy beating from Otto, which was upgraded Friday to a hurricane as it moved north, officials said.

Areas of St. Croix and St. Thomas lost power during the ordeal, the Virgin Islands Daily News reported.

The rain since Tuesday afternoon "came in huge massive bursts," said CNN iReporter Franklin Tulloch, who is in St. John. "This was easily more rain in a 48-hour period than in years."

The records bear out his observation.

The 6.61 inches recorded at the airport Tuesday made it the fifth wettest day on record for St. Thomas, according to the National Weather Service. Some 52.65 inches of rainfall have accumulated on the island so far this year, more than 3 inches ahead of the amount accumulated by October 7, 1960, the second wettest year to date.

Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas received 11.46 inches of rain over nearly four days. Several cities in Puerto Rico received even more.

About a dozen boats were put ashore in the bay at Chocolate Hole on St. John and Tulloch's friends on the eastern end of the island told him of landslides, he said.

The Westin St. John Resort & Villas was't accepting new reservations Saturday because of extensive flooding.

Most the resort's hotel rooms were closed because of water damage, the pool was being cleared of mud brought by the rising sea and the tennis courts were unusable, said front desk agent Annie Campbell. One of three restaurants was in operation.

The resort's villas fared better, she said. Cleanup workers were busy on a "beautiful and sunny day."

British Virgin Islands tourism minister Ralph T. O'Neal said the territory received nearly 20 inches of rain, with damage to its road network.

"We have received reports of only minimal physical damage to buildings due to flooding," he told on Friday.

The British territory, like its American counterpart, was under a state of emergency Friday.

Governor Boyd McCleary said the storm was "unparalleled in history," according to the BVI Beacon newspaper.

Hurricane Otto on Saturday was heading to the northeast over the north central Atlantic. Maximum sustained winds were at 75 mph (120 kph), but Otto was expected to weaken dramatically by Monday and continue moving away from land.

CNN's Phil Gast contributed to this report.