Virginia’s reply to Ian is coming

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A state of emergency remains in effect in Virginia as the remnants of Ian bring rainfall, flooding and wind. For government agencies, storm preparation transitions to response.

As of Friday afternoon, some of the most significant impacts were seen in the Hampton Roads area. These photos show flooding in Norfolk.

“I think the flooding with John is going to be the biggest problem we have across the Commonwealth. We really focused on the Hampton Roads and Tidewater areas, as well as southwest Virginia,” said Jason Elmore, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

At the Virginia Operations Center (EOC) in Chesterfield, more than two dozen state and federal officials met Friday to prepare for more severe impacts expected this weekend. The EOC is the main center where the state monitors weather conditions and makes decisions about where to direct resources.

Elmore said the team will double in size by Saturday morning when the EOC is fully activated with representatives from various government agencies.

“It helps us all be in one place so we can plan and have strategic meetings about how we’re going to deal with what’s going on around the commonwealth,” Elmore said.

Elmore said local reports of flooding and damage come in several times a day. So far, there have been no requests for state aid.

The Department of Defense and the Federal Emergency Management Agency sent a team from Pennsylvania to provide support.

“Disasters start and end at the local level, so we’re really here to support the Commonwealth if there are any needs that may arise from local municipalities that may require federal support in the declaration process,” said Jason Burrows, group leader. FEMA Region 3.

Meanwhile, The Virginia National Guard fielded about 60 soldiers and airmen in key locations around Abingdon, Roanoke, Richmond and Virginia Beach for possible severe weather response operations. The personal warehouse is prepared for transportation in high water and debris clearance.

“The key to rapid response is getting personnel and equipment in key locations before severe weather hits,” explained Brig. Gen. James W. Ring, VNG director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “Our Soldiers, Airmen and members of the Virginia Defense Force quickly left their loved ones and jobs on very short notice to help their countrymen during this difficult time, and we extend special thanks to their families and employers for their continued support.”

Virginia State Police Search and Recovery divers were in southwest Virginia and coastal regions of the state Friday morning, preparing to respond to any water rescue emergency.

The Virginia Department of Transportation is urging drivers to pay close attention to local weather forecasts and limit travel depending on conditions. VDOT said the severe weather could lead to downed trees, power lines and other debris, as well as flooding that would make roads “extremely dangerous or impassable.”

VDOT crews are checking and cleaning sewers in preparation for the storm. The agency is monitoring wind speeds and staff are on standby to clear road hazards.

VDOT has the following guidelines for drivers:

  • Follow all road closed signs.
  • “Turn around so you don’t drown” – don’t try to drive on flooded roadways. According to the CDC, the leading causes of flood-related deaths are people driving into or walking near floodwaters.
  • Be aware of debris, downed trees and power lines, as well as road crews who may be trying to clear the roadway.
  • Be aware of high wind reports, especially on bridges and taller structures. Tall vehicles such as tractor trailers, SUVs or vans are particularly vulnerable and should not cross the bridge when a high wind warning is posted.

Before the trip, citizens should clarify the road situation by calling 511, exit www.511Virginia.org or check out the 511 Virginia mobile app.

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