After Governor Ralph Northam declared a State of Emergency on Saturday, and then the Mayor Levar Stoney following with a declaration for the City of Richmond on Monday, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) and City crews have worked throughout the weekend preparing for what they say may be Virginia’s most significant hurricane event in decades. With Virginia under a state of emergency, and forecasts showing Florence zeroing in on the Mid-Atlantic, the time to prepare is now.
The majority of forecast models now indicate significant potential impacts to Virginia in the form of coastal storm surge, catastrophic inland flooding, high winds, and possible widespread power outages. Locally, one needs only remember the impacts from Hurricanes Isabel and Irene to know the damage these storms can cause–many trees and power lines down, long-term power outages, and even impacts to local water systems as occurred with Isabel.
— 8News WRIC Richmond (@8NEWS) September 10, 2018
Virginia emergency managers and first responders are already mobilizing to prepare for the storm. The State of Emergency declaration mobilizes personnel and resources for storm impacts and helps to speed the response to those communities that are damaged by the storm after the fact. This includes resources from VDEM, the Virginia Department of Transportation, Virginia State Police, Virginia Department of Health, the Virginia National Guard, and others.
Flooding is the major concern
The largest threat to life from hurricanes is not the high winds. Flooding is the deadliest result of these storms. Current forecast models indicate that Florence could strike the Carolinas and enter Central Virginia, possibly stalling and dropping more than 20 inches of rain in some areas. This will lead to widespread and dangerous flooding, inundation of roads and damaged infrastructure. Potential widespread power outages are also expected.
It could also be, if the models hold, the first time Richmond’s floodwall along the James River has been put to the test since it was constructed in 1995. That’s right–the $140 million-plus project has never had its floodgates closed in its 23-year history (though it is regularly tested).
It's a scary rain forecast as a stalling Florence could produce widespread 10" of rain Thurs-Sun.
(The James River's flood wall, which hasn't had a real-life test since being built in the 1990s, could be pressed into action FOR REAL)https://t.co/ogAcw1dqT4 pic.twitter.com/wlhpSJBUF1
— Andrew Freiden (@AndrewNBC12) September 10, 2018
Everyone in the area should prepare for rising waters, flash flooding, and remember to never drive across flooded roadways. Most injuries and deaths occur when motorists try to cross flooded roads. Roads and bridges can be damaged or completely washed away beneath flood waters, and a few inches of water can sweep vehicles downstream. Remember, turn around, don’t drown.
Some forecast models are indicating a possible strike more directly on the Hampton Roads region and Coastal Virginia. If this track becomes a reality, Coastal Virginians can expect significant flooding, damaging winds and storm surge flooding throughout the region. If the storm moves on a coastal track, it would require the Commonwealth to enact its tiered evacuation plan, commonly known as Know Your Zone.
With the onset of tropical storm force winds and rain only a couple of days away, the time to prepare is now. Get your home, business, and family ready for whatever impacts this storm may bring. Hurricane season lasts through November 30th, so more storms may target Virginia this year.
Protecting your property before and after the storm
It’s important that you take steps to prepare your property and locate any insurance documents, and keep receipts for any temporary repairs made. These tips come to us from the Independent Insurance Agents Association.
Before the hurricane:
- Locate your insurance policies – name and number of an insurance agent and get their cell phone numbers.
- If you are asked to evacuate, stay calm and move out quickly.
- Protect your property by boarding up windows and storing outdoor furniture. Recheck manufactured home tie-downs.
- Be sure to have on hand a supply of non-perishable food, water, and medication. Keep a full tank of gas in your car.
- Make sure your first aid kit is updated and fully supplied.
- Have flashlights (with extra batteries) or candles ready, plus a battery-operated radio for latest storm information. Don’t forget to keep an extra battery for your cell phone.
- If your property is damaged, make temporary repairs, save receipts and contact your insurance agent immediately.
- In the event that telephone service is disrupted, stay tuned to radio and television for further instructions.
After the hurricane:
- If there’s damage, contact your insurance agent as soon as possible.
- Make temporary repairs to prevent further damage.
- Prepare an inventory of all damaged or destroyed personal property.
- Take photos of damaged areas.
- Save remnants of damaged or destroyed property for your insurance company adjuster.
- Meet with your insurance company adjuster first before signing anything with a public adjuster.
- Look out for scams. People that show up to repair your property or move trees with an offer that’s too good to be true likely are trying to take advantage of you.
General preparedness tips from VDEM
These tips below from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management should help you prepare.