Flooding, road closures, outages mark nor’easter

Published 7:42 pm Thursday, November 12, 2009

A nor’easter continued to slam Hampton Roads Thursday, producing localized flooding in several areas in Suffolk in addition to more than four inches of rain.

The storm system had dumped more than five and a half inches of rain on Suffolk from Tuesday night through Thursday afternoon, according to Lyle Alexander, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wakefield.

“We’re looking for two to three more inches, at least, before this subsides,” Suffolk Director of Emergency Management James Judkins said, adding that he expected Thursday evening’s high tide cycle to set a record for Suffolk.

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Just after the high-tide peak, however, Alexander said the levels had risen just shy of where they had reached during Hurricane Isabel, and then they began to fall again.

Still, flooding along Suffolk’s tidal waterways was significant, wreaking havoc with travel plans, work schedules and school and government activities.

Roads throughout Suffolk were impassable during most of the day. The American Red Cross Suffolk chapter had received one request for housing assistance, Judkins added.

“We did have lots of flooding,” said Debbie George, spokeswoman for the city. “We had a lot of calls for help with vehicles getting stuck in the water.”

The Nansemond River and Chuckatuck Creek swelled to more than four feet above the normal high tide. The water was barely going away between tide cycles, Judkins said.

“The wind keeps packing it up,” Judkins said. “The (National Weather Service) says we can look to at least Saturday or Sunday before it gets back to normal.”

Judkins couldn’t help but make the comparison to 2003’s Hurricane Isabel.

“We’re still looking at a very close comparison, as far as the expected high tides,” Judkins said. “We don’t have the storm surge, just winds packing the water up-creek little by little, but the end result is the same.”

Alexander, the NWS meteorologist, said the remnants of tropical storm Ida and a high-pressure system coming out of New England had met over Southeast Virginia. Both systems were “pretty strong,” he added, and the clash created the winds that tore through the area all night Wednesday and all day and night Thursday.

“The winds out of the east-northeast have been driving a lot of water into the Chesapeake Bay,” he said, and they contributed to the flooding in and around Suffolk.

Judkins said his equipment had recorded a 40 miles per hour wind gust on Thursday morning, but the average was between 13 and 20 mph. Alexander said sustained winds along the coast were measured between 40 and 45 miles per hour, with gusts up to 60 miles per hour.

“We’ll continue to monitor things, responding to citizen requests as needed,” Judkins said. “We’re pretty much telling people if they don’t have to be on the road to stay off the road.”

The storm is expected to taper off slowly through the day Friday, with winds and rain dying off sometime in the afternoon, according to Alexander.