I sat in on the Governor’s emergency preparedness conference call at 12:00 noon today. The Governor has asked all Congressional, state and local officials to disseminate this information as widely as possible. By COB today, Kaj will make sure that Leesburg's website has information on Hurricane Irene and any information we can get about the Red Cross’s plans for providing shelters. Kaj Dentler, Scott Parker, and the police department have been working on emergency planning. The following statements are from my notes.
The most important point is please, obviously, do not try to get to the beach today or this weekend. I'm making this obvious statement because thousands of cars were headed toward beach areas yesterday morning despite evacuation orders. And traveling elsewhere in the state could be problematic as inland hotels are beginning to fill up as beach residents heed mandatory and voluntary evacuation orders.
At this point, Hurricane Irene looks unlikely to strengthen to a Category 3 hurricane, and is tracking farther east than was predicated yesterday. However, the Governor warns that the storm could shift west again. Regardless, even if the storm stays on its current path, effects of Irene are anticipated along the Virginia coast and eastern shore and as far west as the I-95 corridor and potentially as far west as the I-81 corridor.
Between the peak storm period of late Saturday night to early Sunday morning, upwards of 1 million Virginia residents could be experiencing hurricane force winds. Affected communities should anticipate power outages, downed trees, flooding, closed gas stations, closed grocery stores. People are encouraged to have 3+ days of food and water on hand.
Although the state can open shelters of its own if needed, it is not planning to open any at this time and is expecting localities to provide their own shelters.
The Governor’s focus throughout the conference call was primarily on the Virginia Beach/Hampton Roads/Portsmouth area. Non-essential state personnel from Richmond east are being released at 3:00 p.m. today to go home to prepare their homes for the storm.
The National Guard with 300 guardsmen and VDOT are coordinating efforts to close roads in coastal communities as early as tomorrow morning. VDOT will close all roads and tunnels that could be impacted by the storm and preceding storm surge. Along the coast , the storm is expected to cause more damage than Isabel did in 2003(?). The west coast of the Chesapeake Bay may experience a 3-6 foot storm surge preceding the storm.
As of 11:00 a.m. today, the storm was generating winds of 105 mph and was moving north at 14 mph. In the Virginia Beach area, the locals say they are expecting the storm to hit earlier than anticipated. Storm surges are expected to affect areas as far as 20 miles inland from the coast
Water and wastewater treatment plants without backup generators in coastal areas could see operations shut down for a few days or longer. The state has contractors on call for these kinds of emergencies but the Governor warned that it could take awhile for them to get to any particular locale.
Very sincerely yours,
Kristen Umstattd, Mayor
Town of Leesburg