RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam and his cabinet participated in a day-long exercise Monday that focused on disaster preparedness and how to ready all Virginia state agencies for hurricanes or other natural and manmade-disasters.
The Governor and his cabinet heard a presentation from North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper on lessons learned from Hurricane Florence and the devastation and long-term recovery efforts still underway in the state. They were also briefed by experts at Old Dominion University that recently completed a study of the economic impact on the Commonwealth if Florence had not turned south and instead struck Virginia directly. The day culminated in a hurricane preparation exercise to test executive decision making protocol and state agency emergency response readiness.
“My administration is working hard to ensure that Virginia is resilient and ready to respond to any natural disaster,” said Governor Northam. “The impacts from tropical storm systems can pose threats to life and property in every region of the Commonwealth, and that’s why it’s important for all Virginians to take proactive steps now to prepare for the upcoming hurricane season.”
Virginians are encouraged to use the start of hurricane season to make preparations to sustain themselves during and after a hurricane or other extreme weather events. Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30.
“Hurricanes can devastate the entire state with storm surges, inland, river and flash flooding, damaging winds, landslides, dam failures, and tornadoes,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian J. Moran. “Storms also have the ability to disrupt communication networks and produce prolonged power outages. Power interruptions, extreme heat, transportation networks, and communication system disruption can compound the effects of a hurricane for weeks. It is critical to have a plan and make preparations now to address your family’s unique needs and circumstances.”
In 2018 the Eastern Shore was threatened by two tropical storms. Hurricane Florence which devastated southeast North Carolina and then tropical storm Michael which moved over the Eastern Shore in October.
The new Virginia hurricane evacuation plan was implemented when Florence moved closer to the North Carolina coast in September. The plan was designed to implement a series of actions when storms threaten the coast of Virginia. Although Florence turned south at the last minute and stayed 250 miles south of here, the implementation of the evacuation order resulted in closed schools, county offices and banks. Even though many of these institutions were located well out of the flood zone, the regulations dictated that businesses could not require employees who lived in the flood zone to come to work. This resulted in some disruption of the local economy while the evacuation order was in effect.
Tropical Storm Michael hit the panhandle of Florida as a category 5 hurricane. In spite of staying over land for two days, Michael retained wind speeds of close to hurricane strength. The center moved across the Eastern Shore and unexpectedly caused flooding of several low lying bayside communities. Michael hit in the middle of the night and some Eastern Shore residents awakened to find that their cars had been flooded and some boats were damaged as well. Neither local weather forecasters or the National Hurricane predicted the flooding.
Again this season, WESR and A&N Electric Cooperative are sponsoring our Hurricane Survival Guide which is available anytime on www.shoredailynews.wpstagecoach.com. The site is a very comprehensive guide on how to prepare for a potential hurricane in Accomack and Northampton Counties. It includes a feature that allows participants to type in their address and find a special evacuation message tailored to that location. It is absolutely free and available 24/7.
WESR will also be distributing a printed version of the guide at many local businesses.
The best way to prepare for a potential storm is to make your plans in advance. Have the necessary supplies on hand in case power is out for several days. If you live in an evacuation zone, know where you will go. If it is possible to stay with family or friends on higher ground, make those plans in advance.