Monday, October 29, 2012
Virginians urged to prepare, be patient as hurricane approaches
Many colleges have canceled classes, including Virginia Western Community College, Liberty and UVa. Virginia Tech plans to stay open.
The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot
Jessica Ospina (left) and Allison Kane of Virginia Beach, Va., lean into the strong wind and rain off the Chesapeake Bay near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge tunnel in Virginia Beach as Hurricane Sandy works its way north, battering the East Coast on Sunday. Conditions were expected to deteriorate throughout the day on Sunday, with the worst expected today.
Matt Francis, of Virginia Beach, Va., holds on to his hat, as the wind-driven sand and rain from Hurricane Sandy blows across the beaches of Sandbridge on Sunday.
WASHINGTON -- Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell pleaded Sunday with residents to stay off the roads, get blankets and flashlights, and use common sense as Hurricane Sandy churns its way toward the East Coast. The governor declared a state of emergency Friday.
"If everybody is patient, is a good neighbor, we'll get through this," he said Sunday at a news conference.
McDonnell said his greatest concern is keeping people off the roads during the height of the storm. Officials expect flooding and downed trees blocking roads, and power outages that darken traffic signals.
He said downed electric wires and falling trees were the biggest cause of deaths and injuries in previous storms.
McDonnell said that people should prepare with blankets, noting a forecast of cold and, in some areas, snow.
"If you don't have power, your concern and your threat is going to be cold," he said.
He later announced that all executive branch state agencies will be closed today. Many local governments and school systems will be closed.
In the Roanoke and New River valleys, Virginia Western Community College canceled classes today because of the storm; Liberty University has also canceled classes. Virginia Tech said classes will proceed as usual.
The University of Virginia and James Madison University also canceled classes today.
Also canceled were Mitt Romney's plans to campaign in Virginia. McDonnell said he has directed officials to keep election offices open, if safe, so eligible voters can cast absentee ballots. If the offices are forced to close, he said he is considering extending their hours once the emergency eases.
Parts of Hampton Roads and the Eastern Shore began seeing the effects of Hurricane Sandy on Sunday, as officials urged residents in much of the state that time is running out to prepare for a storm that could stick around several days.
Several low-lying streets in Norfolk, Chesapeake and other areas already were flooded. At the Virginia Beach Oceanfront, stores that weren't already closed for the season were seeing few customers as many stayed in out of the rain. Along the shore, winds were heavy as some ventured out to take pictures of the ocean.
Conditions were expected to deteriorate throughout the day on Sunday, with the worst expected today.
Meanwhile, residents in the southwest portion of the state prepared for possible snow that is expected to result from the freak storm -- a combination of Hurricane Sandy, a cold front from the west and high pressure from the north.
Emergency officials hoped most had heeded earlier warnings and already had their groceries, water and supplies together.
"This is your last chance before the stronger impacts start coming in," Virginia Department of Emergency Management spokesman Bob Spieldenner said Sunday.
No mass evacuations were planned, but local officials could order them in flood-prone areas. Severe storm surge was expected along the Eastern Shore and along the coast, and areas along the Chesapeake Bay were expected to see flooding, as well.
In Norfolk Sunday morning, water was up to the bumpers of cars on some streets. Officials expected more flooding during high tide Sunday night and into today.
Dominion Virginia Power estimates up to 1 million customers could lose power over the next few days as Sandy barrels by Virginia.
On Sunday night, more than 5,000 of the utility's customers were already without power. Crews worked throughout the day to restore outages.
Dominion will get assistance from 2,000 crews that are arriving in Virginia to help with the anticipated outages.
Spokeswoman Alison Kaufmann told WWBT-TV in Richmond that the three-day window of the storm will make it difficult for crews to restore power until the winds have passed.
If the outages reach 1 million, Kaufmann said, Sandy would likely be one of the worst storms on record as far as leaving people in the dark. About the same number of customers were without power after Hurricane Irene last year.
Statewide, about 30 local shelters opened, with more expected as the storm continues. McDonnell authorized up to 750 members of the Virginia National Guard to assist with the storm, with about 415 already in place.
What to expect in the region:
-- High wind warning today and Tuesday for all of Southwest Virginia
Expect winds to gradually increase today, reaching sustained speed of 20 to 40 mph by this evening with gusts of 50 to 60 mph possible, continuing into Tuesday. Winds of this speed and duration will likely lead to downed trees and scattered power outages.
-- Winter storm warnings above 3,000 feet for Alleghany and Bath counties and west of Interstate 77
Cold air circulating around the storm as it moves inland, combined with thick moisture wrapping around it, will lead to heavy snow in higher elevations near the Virginia-West Virginia line. A little accumulation is expected farther east and in lower elevations.
-- Blizzard warnings in central West Virginia
Snowfall of a foot or more is projected in the mountains of central and eastern West Virginia. Combined with strong and gusty winds, visibilities may drop to near zero at times, especially late tonight and early Tuesday. Beware if traveling I-64 west or I-77 north out of Virginia into West Virginia.