Gov. Ralph Northam has ordered a mandatory evacuation for Hampton Roads and the Eastern Shore for those living in Zone A as Hurricane Florence approaches the East Coast.
Northam made the announcement during a new conference in North Chesterfield Monday.
The order goes into effect 8 a.m. Tuesday, according to the governor’s office.
“This is a serious storm,” Northam said, describing Zone A as the “most flood-prone area of Hampton Roads and the eastern Shore.”
“I’m giving this announcement to give residents, families, schools and businesses time to prepare,” Northam said, urging Zone A residents to go to “higher ground and inland.”
In light of the governor’s order, classes at public schools in Newport News and Hampton are canceled until further notice starting Tuesday.
In Newport News, all 12-month employees, custodial staff and plant services staff are asked to report on time on Tuesday to prepare for the impending weather.
Thomas Nelson Community College’s Hampton campus will close at 8 a.m. Tuesday. It will reopen Sunday. Thomas Nelson officials ask that all “essential personnel” report to their supervisors.
At around noon Monday, the National Hurricane Center said Florence rapidly strengthened into a Category 4 hurricane as it closed in on North and South Carolina.
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. The designations address flood-prone areas, with the most at-risk areas designated “Zone A” and the least at-risk designated “Zone D.”
Residents of individual zones may be directed by local emergency managers to evacuate along a predetermined path ahead of a storm’s landfall.
While all Virginians need to prepare for Hurricane Florence, Governor Northam has ordered the mandatory evacuation of Coastal Virginians in Zone A (blue), the lowest-lying area of Hampton Roads, the Eastern Shore & Coastal Virginia. These residents should move to higher ground. pic.twitter.com/uYGIAqGg6a
— VDEM (@VDEM) September 11, 2018
By noon EDT on Monday, Florence had top sustained winds of 130 mph (195 kph). It was centered about 1,230 miles (1,985 kilometers) east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, and moving west at 13 mph (20 kph). Its center will move between Bermuda and the Bahamas Tuesday and Wednesday, and approach the coast of South Carolina or North Carolina on Thursday, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The National Weather Service is forecasting what could be “Virginia’s most significant hurricane event in decades.”