Tsuami/Storm surge impact
This is probably a silly question but its been bugging me enough to de-lurk again and ask...
Are storm surges/tsuami's not as much of an issue as I'm assuming they are? IE, I'm looking at the construction photos for Pond Bay on STJ as well as other real estate listings on all the islands that I swear would wash away in a decent ocean swell. Is there some trait of the sea bed, bays, or currents protecting these vulnerable-seeming developments?
Trade is right about the tsunami, there was a large one back then that did major damage. Lots of lives were lost apparently because when the water rushed out of the harbor before coming back in, people climbed down to pick up all the fish! Tsunamis though are caused by displacement of the seabed from earthquakes. The Virgin Islands experiences many many small earthquakes every year, making it much less likely for a large earthquake to build up.
Storm surge is almost a non-issue down here. Hurricane and storms raise the water level on the mainland because there is an entire continent to push the water against. Think of it as the wind pushing the water - since there's nowhere else for the water to go, it has to go upwards. Since we're an island down here, the water can flow around the island. Large waves do incredible damage to beaches, but the actual surge is only a couple of feet typically in large storms, not the 10+ feet from a Category 2 hurricane like I'm used to.
In 1995 after Hurricane Marilyn a 110' USCG cutter was sitting on the highway on the STT waterfront so the waves and surge can get fairly large during these storms. Chocolate Hole has a rather small entrance but really anything built directly on the shoreline in the VI has the liability of storm surge damage.
The tsunami mentioned was in 1867.
Prof. Watlington from UVI had done a presentation on this last year. There is an article giving an overview of the presentation at: http://www.stjohnhistoricalsociety.org/Articles/EarthQuakesProspectsforVI.htm?limited=1
If you search for his name: Roy Watlington + tsunami in yahoo or google various articles and pages come up and some link to other pages you might find information of interest on, like this one on an observation system for the general area including the USVI, http://www.csc.noaa.gov/ras/caribbean/cara.html.