Warner declares state of emergency

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 12, 2005

Staff report

Governor Mark R. Warner declared a State of Emergency Monday, directing state agencies to take all reasonable actions necessary to protect the health and safety of Virginians, and directing the public to prepare for the potentially damaging effects of Tropical Storm Ophelia.

&uot;No one needs to be told that hurricanes and tropical storms can cause significant damage,&uot; Warner said. &uot;Our state and local emergency management professionals have been hard at work for two weeks now, coordinating our response to the significant needs of the residents of the Gulf Coast states hit by Hurricane Katrina.

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&uot;But it is very important that Virginia residents and businesses, especially those in Hampton Roads, make sure they are fully prepared for Ophelia – including the possibility of heavy rain, high winds, tornadoes and the potential loss of power.&uot;

Virginia is already under a State of Emergency to help provide a response to Hurricane Katrina. This declaration also allows state agencies to take actions specific to Ophelia.

The exact forecast track is uncertain, but the latest information from the National Weather Service indicates Ophelia is expected to move across the Outer Banks of North Carolina and then to the east of southeastern Virginia on Wednesday night and into Thursday morning.

Forecasters say tropical storm force winds of 40-50 miles per hour can be expected across southeastern Virginia for a six-to-ten hour period. Rainfall amounts of 1-3 inches can be expected, mainly in an area east of Interstate 95, according to the latest information from the National Weather Service.

&uot;Residents and businesses need to be prepared to be without power for at least three to five days,&uot; said Michael Cline, state coordinator for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. &uot;Those who are elderly or medically fragile need to take special precautions. If they are reliant on power then they should make plans to relocate with friends or family outside of the projected impact area if possible. Also, they should ensure that they have an extra supply of prescription medicine.&uot;

Four key steps to personal emergency preparedness are listening for emergency information, making a disaster plan, having a disaster supplies kit, and preparing thehome.

Paying attention to television, radio, newspaper, and Web site information about Ophelia will allow tracking of the progress of the storm and getting vital information.

Having a radio and extra batteries is important so

information can be received even when power is out.

Making a disaster plan for the family or business will ensure everyone knows when to evacuate during an emergency and where to go when they do evacuate.

It also ensures that everyone has vital contact information for family, friends, and co-workers during an emergency.

Disabled, elderly, or medically fragile individuals may wish to consider staying with family or friends outside of the projected impact area to ensure their safety.

When making a disaster supplies kit, food, water, and medicines that will last everyone in the home at least three days should be included.

Particular thought should be given to the dietary and prescription medicine needs of disabled, elderly, or medically frail individuals.

Having these supplies on hand can be critical if one is without utilities for a long period of time.

Protect the home from wind damage.

Trim back dead or weak tree branches and secure garbage cans, lawn furniture or anything that could become airborne and cause damage.

Information about personal and business preparedness is available on the Web at vaemergency.com.

Information is also available by calling the Virginia Public Inquiry Center between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. at 866-880-4266.