With the devastation of Harvey still fresh in the public’s memory, stores in southern Florida are already running out of necessities like bottled water, and the Mayor of Miami is telling reporters to expect an evacuation order on Wednesday. But outside of the US mainland, the US Virgin Islands, which has activated the national guard as the storm approaches. However, Mapp’s order differed from the order signed by Texas Gov. Mike Abbott with one concerning twist: guardsmen can “appropriate” guns, ammunition, explosives and property needed to respond to Hurricane Irma. The order was signed by Virgin Islands Gov. Kenneth Mapp on Monday.
Irma’s eye is expected to pass just north of the heart of the U.S. Virgin Islands on Wednesday and bring four to eight inches or rain and 60-mile-per-hour wind gusts, though the gusts in the most powerful areas of the storm have been as fast as 185 mph, the Daily Caller reported.
Mapp signed the order Monday in preparation for Hurricane Irma. It allows the Adjutant General of the Virgin Islands to seize private property they believe necessary to protect the islands, subject to approval by the territory’s Justice Department. Mapp issued an emergency declaration Tuesday and mobilized National Guard units to prepare for the massive storm.
“This is not an opportunity to go outside and try to have fun with a hurricane,” Mapp said. “It’s not time to get on a surfboard.”
Because of its location in the middle of the Pacific, it’s understandable that the Virgin Islands would need to take extraordinary measures to ensure its response to the storm is successful. However, the order too closely resembles an expansion of US civil asset forfeiture powers adopted by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Civil asset forfeiture, which allows police to seize property that is suspected to have been obtained using illegally obtained funds, is essentially another way in which the state transfers wealth from citizens to its own coffers.
To be sure, both Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló have declared states of emergencies in anticipation of Irma.
And while the forecasts are looking more terrifying by the day, as meteorologists have repeatedly cautioned, weather forecasting is inexact. It’s entirely possible that Florida may not see a single drop of rain. And if the storm passes without incident, how will the Virgin Islands ensure that all the seized property is returned?
Read the full order below: