Expect another Isabel

Published 10:37 pm Wednesday, August 24, 2011

As Hurricane Irene spins toward the East Coast, emergency management officials in Suffolk are asking residents to prepare for an “Isabel-type event.”

The comparison to the mid-September 2003 hurricane, which was the costliest and deadliest of the Atlantic hurricane season that year, is likely to strike fear in the hearts of those who were here at the time, some of whom were without power for more than a week.

Suffolk residents should expect tropical storm-force winds to begin around midday Saturday and continue for about 24 hours, said Capt. Jim Judkins, the city’s emergency management coordinator. That’s based on forecasts issued early Wednesday, so that could easily change.

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About 2 to 7 inches of rainfall is expected, along with a storm surge between 2 and 5 feet in the Nansemond River and its tributaries.

Judkins said that amount of flooding likely will not affect any homes, but could cut off escape routes for some people.

Key city staff members are meeting Thursday to make final decisions on public shelters and other concerns, Judkins said.

He advised people, particularly those whose escape routes generally flood, to prepare to be self-sustaining for three to seven days. Every family should have a gallon of water per person per day, non-perishable food that does not require refrigeration or cooking, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio and a light source that does not emit flame.

“We don’t want to create additional disaster in your household with a fire,” Judkins said.

Areas further inland will see fewer effects from the storm, he said. The Blackwater and Chowan rivers are not expecting major flooding issues.

Judkins cautioned that the storm track could change at any time, causing more or less impact on the area.

“Stay tuned for the latest news regarding what to do and how to act,” he said.

The Suffolk News-Herald will bring all the latest news on the storm throughout the week and weekend.

For more on the storm, visit the National Hurricane Center’s Hurricane Irene page.