Emergency declared in Virginia as Irma approaches

irma photoPhoto via NOAA

Governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency in anticipation of the potential impact from Hurricane Irma today. The order is designed to help Virginia mitigate any damage caused by the storm and to streamline the process that the Commonwealth uses to provide assistance to other states vulnerable to Irma.

“It is unfortunate that just as our nation has begun the process to repair the catastrophic damage from Hurricane Harvey, that we are faced with another extreme storm,” said McAuliffe. “However, if there is one lesson we can take from the tragic events that occurred in Texas, it is that we must redouble our preparation efforts. The order I issued today is intended to both protect our commonwealth and to make sure we have every option at our disposal to help our neighboring states when Irma makes landfall.”

A state of emergency allows the commonwealth to mobilize resources, including the Virginia National Guard, and pre-position people and equipment to assist in storm response and recovery efforts. All Virginians must prepare in advance for the potential impacts of this historic hurricane.

While the track of Hurricane Irma is still uncertain, it appears increasingly likely that Virginia will see significant impacts from this record-setting storm. The entire Commonwealth must prepare for the possible flooding, high winds, and potential storm surge that could come along with a storm of this magnitude.

Flood insurance is essential

After the devastation in Houston, one of the most important things for homeowners to think about in advance of hurricane season is to secure flood insurance on their home. More than 25 percent of flood damage to homes in Virginia happens to properties outside of a flood plain. And of those properties, only 4.3 percent of Virginia homes outside the floodplain are covered by flood insurance.

Homeowners insurance does not cover damage from floods. Residents should visit floodsmart.gov and apply for a low-cost flood insurance policy for your property. Remember, it takes 30 days for these flood insurance policies to take effect, so while they will not be helpful for Hurricane Irma, they will protect your home for the remainder of this very busy hurricane season.

The governor’s office, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Virginia National Guard, the Virginia State Police, and other state agencies have already begun preparations for the impacts of Hurricane Irma. State agencies are working closely with localities to identify any needs in advance of the storm, and to pre-position resources where they will be most effective. The state Emergency Operations Center will be staffed throughout the weekend in preparation for the storm and will transition into 24/7 operations as needed when the storm approaches.

Due to the uncertainty of the storm’s track this many days in advance, VDEM encourages all residents of Virginia to prepare for impacts from this extremely large storm. These will range from high winds and storm surge in coastal Virginia to significant flooding both along the coast and in rivers and streams in the western part of the state. Citizens should remember that flash floods could happen at any time and that flooding is the most deadly and damaging part of any hurricane.

As we have unfortunately seen along the Gulf Coast, more than 60 people died while driving across flooded roadways and being swept away in floodwaters. Virginians should remember to “turn around and don’t drown.” Do not drive across any flooded roadway, as it only takes six inches of water to move a vehicle and roads may be washed out beneath the floodwaters.

In advance of the storm, assemble your emergency kit including food, water, medications, pet supplies and important documents that you will need to take with you if asked to evacuate in short order. To learn more about what to include in your emergency kit, visit VAemergency.gov.

It is also important to “Know Your Zone” before this storm impacts Virginia. To learn which new hurricane evacuation zone you live in, please visit www.vaemergency.gov/hurricane-evacuation-zone-lookup/.

Stay tuned to local media throughout the weekend to keep close tabs on Hurricane Irma as it approaches the Commonwealth. Be prepared to take action, and know that storm forecast can vary significantly over just a few hours.

 

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Truman Lewis

A former reporter and bureau chief, Truman Lewis has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and stories ranging from organized crime to environmental and consumer protection.