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Independence Day storm blowing in

Published 7:58pm Tuesday, July 1, 2014

With a lot of other mid-Atlantic communities, Suffolk is bracing for a wet and windy Independence Day, not to mention the prospect of canceled public celebrations.

As Tuesday progressed, a tropical depression off the Florida coast strengthened into the first named storm of the season: Tropical Storm Arthur.

The National Weather Service predicted Arthur would travel up the southeast Atlantic coast Thursday, arriving near Virginia on Friday, potentially bringing localized heavy rain and gusty winds.

“We’re expecting some rain to arrive Thursday evening and to continue Friday,” said John Billet, meteorologist with the service in Wakefield.

“Some of that rain could be heavy, particularly Thursday night and into Friday morning.”

Arthur could reach hurricane force as it moves off the Outer Banks, but Suffolk and surrounding localities would “just get the outer effects of it,” Billet said, including “breezy winds.”

The Suffolk Office of Emergency Management and all city departments were monitoring the storm and any potential impacts, according to city spokesman Tim Kelley.

“Residents are advised to stay alert and review weather reports to be ready in the event that severe weather conditions should develop,” Kelley stated.

With the hurricane season now in full swing, he advised residents to review their emergency evacuation kits and personal evacuation plans, encouraging them to visit www.ReadyVirginia.gov for additional information.

Jeff Stern, state coordinator for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, called upon folks to prepare themselves now.

“Everyone needs to pay attention and take necessary precautions, regardless of the July 4 holiday, Stern stated.

“Virginia state agencies are getting ready for the storm, and so should our residents and visitors.”

Stern asked residents to find out if they are at risk of storm surge and to review their evacuation, shelter and pet plans.

“Listen to local media and local officials for instructions,” he stated.

A call on whether the Star and Stripes Spectacular — planned for Constant’s Wharf Park and Marina beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Friday — will go ahead as planned would be made later in the week, Kelley stated.

“A decision will be made … based on forecasts as the storm moves closer to our area so that potential severity of impact can be measured.”

If the fireworks have to be canceled, they would likely be rescheduled for a future installment of the city’s TGIF Summer Concert series, according to Kelley.

Any news regarding Friday’s city-organized celebrations will be disseminated via www.suffolkva.us, social media, Suffolk On The Alert and the Suffolk Municipal Channel 190, Kelley stated.

In North Suffolk, bad weather would cancel the bicycle and float parade and other outdoor activities, including fireworks, in the village of Eclipse, said Bob Earl, one of the organizers with Ebenezer United Methodist Church.

“If it’s raining and bad weather, we will not have the parade,” Earl said, though adding that official remarks and food sales would still take place inside the Church Family Life Center, 1589 Steeple Drive, beginning at 11:30 a.m.

“We’ll look at it Thursday afternoon and see. We’ll just play it by ear. This is not a real formal thing — people just show up. I think people themselves would make up their own minds whether or not they want to participate.”

If bad weather blows in Friday but departs before the weekend, organizers could decide to hold the parade on Saturday, Earl said.

Billet said that the storm should pass by Friday evening, which would allow fireworks to go ahead as planned.

Earl said he could recall the parade and other outside activities being canceled due to weather only once in the 15 or so years of his involvement.

“It’s a pretty long tradition,” he said of the celebrations. “It would be a disappointment for everybody in the community.”

Meanwhile, teams entered in the annual raft race on Chuckatuck Creek were at risk of missing the opportunity to put their creations to the test.

Brenda Gillihan of Bon Vivant Wine and Brew said her business was sponsoring an entry. Ten to 12 folks have been showing up at the Governor’s Pointe store after work Tuesdays to plan the raft, Gillihan said.

“We are continuing our planning,” she said early Tuesday afternoon. “We’ll deal with the weather as we deal with it. We’ve had great fun planning our raft.”

The American Red Cross has the following advice:

  • Keep informed — know the latest storm activity.
  • Develop an evacuation plan.
  • Prepare a family communication plan, with a friend or relative far from the area designated as a family contact in the event of family separation during a hurricane.
  • Help prepare seniors, disable and those with special needs.
  • Don’t forget pets.
  • Get together an emergency supplies kit.
  • Gather important documents and keep them safe.
  • Prepare your home.

Resources to help get prepared are available at www.youtube/vaemergency and www.vaemergency.gov.

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