"Hurricane Thanksgiving" Marks End of Season in Virgin Islands

Willie Drye
for National Geographic News
November 23, 2005

Residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands know that if they haven't been hit by a hurricane by mid-October, there's a good chance they're safe for the rest of the Atlantic hurricane season.

Since 1726 the islanders have devoted a day in October to give thanks when the summer fury passes them by.

"You'll be thanking God for sparing you and taking care of you," said Myron Jackson, a historian who lives on St. Thomas.

"Traditionally it centered around church services," Jackson said. "They would have services of thanksgiving for either sparing their lives if a hurricane had struck or sparing them from a storm through the hurricane season."

Today the third Monday of October is still observed as Hurricane Thanksgiving Day.

Local interest in the holiday waned during the less active hurricane seasons several decades ago, but in 1989 powerful Hurricane Hugo struck the islands.

Several other powerful storms—including Hurricanes Luis and Marilyn in 1995—have prompted renewed interest in the observance, Jackson said.

"There's been a revival to go and observe it by going to church," he said. "It's up to the governor's discretion these days as to whether we get the day off."

Virgin Islands' Hurricane History

The hurricanes that do strike the Virgin Islands usually begin as summer thunderstorms that roll off the west coast of Africa near Cape Verde.

Some of the most powerful hurricanes on record have formed in this part of the Atlantic Ocean, which is at roughly the same latitude as the Virgin Islands.

These Cape Verde hurricanes are most likely to form between mid-August and late September. During those months islanders keep a close watch on the television weather reports.

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