Update 8 p.m. Sunday: While the impacts of Hurricane Florence along the East Coast are still uncertain, Gov. Ralph Northam is warning residents to prepare for the worst.
Throughout the weekend, Virginia Department of Emergency Management teams have worked to prepare for Florence, which strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane Sunday.
The National Weather Service is forecasting what could be “Virginia’s most significant hurricane event in decades,” according to a news release from the governor’s office Sunday.
Virginia is in a state of emergency following an order Saturday afternoon by Northam.
Many models for Florence forecast coastal storm surge, catastrophic inland flooding, high winds and possible widespread power outages, according to the news release.
Florence may hit the Carolinas and enter Central Virginia, dropping more than 20 inches of rain in some areas.
Flooding is the biggest threat to the area, not winds, the news release indicated.
Other forecast models show Florence hitting Hampton Roads. If circumstances are severe enough, the area will evacuate in phases under the Know Your Zone plan.
Florence had re-strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane Sunday as it was located about 710 miles (1,142 kilometers) southeast of Bermuda, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Forecasters predicted it would become a dangerous Category 4 storm before a possible landfall Friday.
“The center of Florence will move over the southwestern Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda and the Bahamas Tuesday and Wednesday, and approach the southeastern U.S. coast on Thursday,” the hurricane center said in its 11 a.m. Sunday advisory.
“Do not focus on the exact track because impacts will be felt far away from the center,” the National Weather Service said. “Be sure that you have your hurricane plans in place.”
The Navy is making preparations for its ships in the Hampton Roads.
The U.S. Fleet Forces Command said in a news release Saturday that the ships will get ready in anticipation of getting under way Monday to avoid storm damage.
But plans could change if forecasts indicate a decrease in the strength or change in the track of the storm, according to the news release.
Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency Saturday night, which allows the mobilization of resources and helps Virginia aid other states impacted by the storm. The order also mobilizes the Virginia National Guard.
The governors of North and South Carolina also declared states of emergency to give them time to prepare.
This is probably a good time to “Know Your Zone.”
The Virginia Department of Emergency Management launched the “Know Your Zone” program in spring 2017 to streamline evacuation efforts in the event of a powerful hurricane passing over Hampton Roads.
Residents of individual zones may be directed by local emergency managers to evacuate along a predetermined path ahead of a storm’s landfall. By knowing one’s zone before a storm approaches, residents can be prepared when the evacuation order is given.
Info from the National Weather Service about hurricane hazards
While hurricanes pose the greatest threat to life and property, tropical storms and depression also can be devastating. The primary hazards from tropical cyclones (which include tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes) are storm surge flooding, inland flooding from heavy rains, destructive winds, tornadoes, and high surf and rip currents.
- Storm surge is the abnormal rise of water generated by a storm’s winds. This hazard is historically the leading cause of hurricane related deaths in the United States. Storm surge and large battering waves can result in large loss of life and cause massive destruction along the coast.
- Storm surge can travel several miles inland, especially along bays, rivers, and estuaries.
- Flooding from heavy rains is the second leading cause of fatalities from landfalling tropical cyclones. Widespread torrential rains associated with these storms often cause flooding hundreds of miles inland. This flooding can persist for several days after a storm has dissipated.
- Winds from a hurricane can destroy buildings and manufactured homes. Signs, roofing material, and other items left outside can become flying missiles during hurricanes.
- Tornadoes can accompany landfalling tropical cyclones. These tornadoes typically occur in rain bands well away from the center of the storm.
- Dangerous waves produced by a tropical cyclone’s strong winds can pose a significant hazard to coastal residents and mariners. These waves can cause deadly rip currents, significant beach erosion, and damage to structures along the coastline, even when the storm is more than a 1,000 miles offshore.