Prepare for Irene’s fury

Published 10:43 pm Thursday, August 25, 2011

As Hurricane Irene sets its sights on Hampton Roads, many residents are planning to hunker down and ride out the storm.

But in making the decision to stick around, it is key to make proper preparations before the storm hits.

And just like the area’s residents, Dominion Virginia Power workers are making the proper preparations to make sure they are ready for the worst.

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Dominion spokeswoman Bonita Harris said the company has been preparing for Irene for more than a week.

“Our crews are on standby,” she said. “They are preparing their trucks and checking all of their equipment.”

Before the storm, the company also discusses possible problems and worst-case scenarios and plans appropriate responses to handle power outages and downed lines.

But aside from its own preparation, Harris said, Dominion warns its customers of the storm and its possible effects.

“We encourage customers to monitor local weather forecasts to keep up with what’s going to be happening,” she said.

Before the storm arrives, there still are several steps residents can take to prepare.

Some of the things you can do before the storm are:

  • Prepare an emergency kit that includes enough water and non-perishable food that doesn’t require cooking to last three days for every member of your family, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, a first aid kit, flashlights and extra batteries, can opener for food, cell phone chargers and pliers to turn off utilities.
  • Bring your pets inside before and for the duration of the storm. If animals are left outside, they can be traumatized, seriously injured or killed. If you evacuate, take them with you.
  • Make sure cell phones are fully charged or have a non-powered landline phone for emergencies.
  • Secure garbage cans, outdoor furniture, decorations, loose tree limbs, wood planks and anything else that isn’t tied down and place in a safe location where they aren’t a hazard to your home or car.
  • If you plan to stay at a public shelter, the city is opening Lakeland, King’s Fork and Nansemond River high schools as havens. Nansemond River will be able to accommodate pets, but owners must stay with pets in order for the animals to stay.

Once the before prep is completed, there’s nothing left to do but brace yourself for the storm’s arrival. During the storm, residents should:

  • Report outages and downed lines to Dominion as soon as possible by calling its hotline at 1-866-366-4357 or visiting
  • Turn off major appliances, such as water heaters and stoves, and unplug other appliances, including televisions, microwaves and computers. Doing this can prevent damage to the appliances and possible overloads to the electric system when power is restored.
  • Leave one light on, so you will know when power is restored.

Harris said Dominion works around the clock to get power back to all of its customers in the event of outages.

The company also prioritizes power restoration in locations that impact the most people.

Dominion relies heavily on its customers to report the outages, Harris said, and anyone without power should contact the company at 1-866-366-4357.

Once the storm has passed, people should avoid fallen lines and treat them and anything touching them as if they are energized.

Additional safety tips for after the storm include:

  • Get in touch with relatives to ensure their safety and let them know you are OK.
  • Listen to your battery-powered or car radio for news and weather updates.
  • Stay away from flooded areas and debris. Do not attempt to drive across flooded roads.
  • When using a generator, never run it in an enclosed or covered space like a garage. Keep them away from windows, doors and overhangs. Failing to do so could be fatal.
  • Do not connect portable generators directly to the electrical system of your house.
  • Visually inspect the area around your electricity meter. Contact Dominion if you detect damage.