Monday, September 25, 2023

Hampton Roads is under a tornado watch; Northam declares state of emergency

(Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of NOAA)
(Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of NOAA)

The National Weather Service has issued a tornado watch for much of Hampton Roads until 9 p.m. Thursday.

Michael is is expected to hit the Hampton Roads area Thursday afternoon, so residents can expect “scattered” showers and “steady” rain on Thursday and high “wind gusts” on Friday, said Jeff Orrock, meteorologist-in-charge at the National Weather Service in Wakefield.

Thursday afternoon, Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency in anticipation of impacts from the storm.

The order is designed to mobilize resources, help Virginia mitigate any damage, and to streamline the process the state uses to provide assistance to other states through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact.

State agencies are working closely with localities to identify any needs and to provide resources.

The National Weather Service tweeted: “We wanted to reemphasize the elevated risk of tornadoes this afternoon. Highest risk for tornadoes will be across NE NC, SE VA, and South Central VA.”

Orrock said the enhanced risk of tornadoes in Hampton Roads was caused by the amount of wind shear and hot air in the atmosphere as the storm system approaches the region. The threat is most likely between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Thursday.

“If we see anything, it will probably be an F0 or F1,” Orrock said. “If we do get into a tornado situation, it could be fast and furious, meaning the tornadoes could develop and move quickly — likely 45 mph — and so it’s important to remain alert, be in tune with the forecasts, and keep an eye on the radar.”

The Weather Service said to expect anywhere from 2-6 inches of rain, with the heaviest starting at 5 p.m. Thursday.

Wind will start to pick up at 8 p.m. Thursday with the strongest winds expected at 2 a.m. Friday with gusts of 50 mph and sustained winds of 35 mph. The wind will then gradually decrease until noon Friday.

Virginia Beach City Public Schools and Norfolk Public Schools have cancelled all after school activities Thursday.

The following City parking garages in Norfolk will open at 6 p.m. Thursday to give residents a safe place to park their vehicles during the storm:

  • Bank Street Parking Garage – 441 Bank St.
  • York Street Parking Garage – 215 W. York St.
  • Residents are asked to remove their vehicles by 6 p.m. Friday.   Bank and York garages are the only garages offering free parking.  All other garages will operate as normal.

Since Monday, Norfolk city crews have taken steps to prepare by cleaning storm drains in areas that normally flood and ensuring pump stations are operating. Trash and recycling collection will take place Friday. Norfolk residents are asked to put their cans out in the morning before 7 versus Thursday night when the winds will be at their worst.

According to a news release from the City of Virginia Beach south wind tides have already flooded sections of some roadways:

  • North Muddy Creek from Charity Neck to Gum Bridge
  • Pleasant Ridge from Charity Neck to North Muddy Creek
  • Pungo Ferry Road from Princess Anne to Blackwater
  • Mill Landing from Stone Rd. to the end of Mill Landing at the bay

Public Works crews are monitoring and posting signs when roads are closed because of high water, according to the news release.

Other roads in the southern part of the city may see flooding until the winds shift to the north around 1-2 a.m. Friday. While this will improve roadway conditions in the south, low-lying areas that typically flood during nor’easters are likely to experience flooding, including Lynnhaven Drive, Bay Island and Shore Drive at Vista Circle.

The National Weather Service is expecting some downed trees and power outages from this storm. If your power goes out, call 866-366-4357 or visit via your cellphone or tablet.

Know the difference:

  • Tornado Watch: Be Prepared. Tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Review and discuss your emergency plans and check supplies and your safe room. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching. Acting early helps to save lives. Watches are issued by the Storm Prediction Center for counties where tornadoes may occur. The watch area is typically large, covering numerous counties or even states.
  • Tornado Warning: Take Action. A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. There is imminent danger to life and property. Move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building. Avoid windows. If in a mobile home, a vehicle, or outdoors, move to the closest substantial shelter and protect yourself from flying debris. Warnings are issued by your local forecast office. Warnings typically encompass a much smaller area (around the size of a city or small county) that may be impacted by a tornado identified by a forecaster on radar or by a trained spotter/law enforcement who is watching the storm.

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