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City gearing up for storm

The city is activating its Emergency Operations Center at 11 p.m. Friday, as Tropical Storm Hanna pushes its way through Hampton Roads after making landfall around Wilmington, N.C.

The National Weather Service, at 5 p.m. Thursday, placed southeastern Virginia, including Suffolk, under a tropical storm watch. That means that tropical storm conditions are possible within the next 48 hours, according to the agency’s Web site.

“We are monitoring Hanna,” said Michael Montefusco, a meteorologist in the National Weather Services Wakefield office, around 6 p.m. Thursday. “… The track of Hanna is a little uncertain at this time, making it a tough forecasting call.”

But if Hanna continues on its current track, Hanna would primarily mean heavy rainfall and gusty winds in Suffolk late tonight and early Saturday, Montefusco said. The areas can expect winds averaging 25-30 miles per hour, with winds gusting up to 40 mph as the storm moves through overnight.

Capt. Jim Judkins, the city’s emergency services coordinator, said his data was showing higher gale force winds – possibly up to 60 mph – in some areas east of the downtown area.

The area is expected to receive two to four inches of rain, which would create minor flooding in downtown, Judkins said.

“This is looking like it could be a major rain event that would go a long way to quenching the fire in the swamp,” Judkins said.

The city has been meeting since Tuesday to plan preparations for the storm, Judkins said. Over the past couple of days, the city has been fueling up vehicles, checking generators, and advising staffers who may be activated during an emergency situation.

More than 25 people from city departments will man the EOC as the storm moves through the city, Judkins said. At this point, he is not expecting emergency shelters will be needed.

Although they may not be needed for Hanna, Judkins encouraged people to create family disaster kits stocked with supplies they would need should the city lose power for several days. The kits should include enough bottled water for every family member to have a gallon per day for a week, non-perishable foods and a week’s supply of medication on hand.