The latest on Hurricane Irene

Published 6:32 pm Thursday, August 25, 2011

UPDATE Wednesday 9:30 p.m.

The city has waived the building permit requirement for homeowners making some repairs necessitated by Hurricane Irene.

Homes not in a historic district that need shingle replacement, vinyl siding or vinyl trim replacement, roof sheeting less than 100 square feet or the replacement of a door or window of the same size as the original will not need a building permit.

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Other repairs may require a permit. The Department of Planning and Community Development will verify that the damages were caused by the storm.

People who are unsure whether their repair will need a permit should contact the Community Development Division at 514-4150.

UPDATE Tuesday 9:30 p.m.

The city closed the Emergency Operations Center at 5 p.m. Tuesday. For further assistance, residents should use the regular non-emergency numbers when contacting various city departments. Some numbers that may be needed:

  • Suffolk Police Department non-emergency line: 923-2350
  • Public Works Refuse hotline: 514-7630
  • Public Utilities customer service: 514-7000, option 1

UPDATE Tuesday 1 a.m.

The Department of Public Works re-opened 37 roads on Monday. About 21 roads remain closed.

A preliminary estimate places the monetary loss in Suffolk at $2.2 million. Damage assessment teams report a total of 215 residential structures, 29 accessory structures and nine commercial structures affected.

Public Utilities employees will distribute potable water Tuesday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Lakeland High School, 214 Kenyon Road, and the Suffolk airport, 1200 Gene Bolton Drive. Residents should bring their own jugs.

East Suffolk Recreation Center will be closed Tuesday because of mechanical issues caused by the storm.

Dominion Virginia Power reported about 10,000 customers in Suffolk still without power Monday night.

There is no curfew Monday night.

UPDATE Monday 2:30 p.m.

The city has suspended the 12 times per year limit on bulk refuse collection, as well as the maximum volume of eight cubic yards, to help residents recover from the hurricane.

All items should be placed at the curb, at least six feet from any obstacle such as mailboxes, cars and low-hanging wires and limbs.

The city will not collect limbs or branches in excess of six feet in length; stumps packed with dirt or mud; stumps or trunks larger than 24 inches in diameter; waste from land-clearing operations such as rocks, dirt, sand, bricks or concrete; debris such as shingles, as asbestos and drywall; automotive parts; oil drums and propane tanks; contractor-produced waste from construction, repairs, remodeling/demolition, tree pruning or removal; paints, pesticides, solvents or other chemicals.

Beginning Oct. 1, the city will resume counting each bulk collection toward the 12 times per year maximum.

Residents with questions should call Public Works at 514-7630.

UPDATE Monday 12:30 p.m.

Some city facilities currently are closed because of power outages.

The North Suffolk Library, the Workforce Development Center and the Public Utilities customer service offices are temporarily closed. The city is working with Dominion Virginia Power, and the facilities will be reopened as soon as possible.

Dominion reported Monday that it expects to restore power to 90-95 percent of its customers by Friday. About 75 percent will be restored by the end of Wednesday, it said.

For an updated list of road closures, visit

UPDATE Sunday 9 p.m.

Damage in Suffolk from Hurricane Irene is estimated at $1.8 million, the city announced Sunday night.

As of 4:30 p.m., 94 residential structures have damage; of those, six are considered major damage.

Four businesses sustained damage; two of those are considered minor. Eight accessory structures, such as sheds, were damaged; four of them were destroyed.

The city will be continuing damage assessments Monday.

Public Works has opened 141 roads Sunday, according to a news release from the city. About 51 roads remain closed, all of them secondary; 37 traffic signals remain without power.

The emergency operations center is on limited activation as of 6 p.m.

Citizens should put all debris at the curbside. The city has suspended the 12 times per year limit on bulk refuse collection through Sept. 30. Beginning Oct. 1, bulk collections will once again count toward the 12 times per year maximum. All other normal requirements surrounding solid waste collection remain in force, such as no hazardous waste, construction or demolition debris. People should call 514-7630 if they have questions about trash pickup.

UPDATE Sunday 5:30 p.m.

The city will again impose a curfew tonight because of unsafe road conditions and concern for public safety, according to a message the city posted on Facebook.

The curfew will be in place between 11 p.m. Sunday and 5 a.m. Monday. It does not apply to law enforcement personnel or to members of local industries traveling to or from work, provided they have proper identification if stopped by law enforcement personnel. Employers are requested to do everything possible to provide proper identification to their employees. Violators of the curfew will be subject to fines or imprisonment, according to a release from the city.

Suffolk Public Schools will be closed Monday. All buildings will be closed, and all activities and events are canceled.

City of Suffolk offices will be open and operating regular hours Monday, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The courts will remain closed. Regular refuse collection is scheduled to resume on Tuesday. The scheduled fitness and senior programs have been canceled for Monday, but the Parks and Recreation administrative offices will be open.

City crews continue damage assessment and recovery efforts. About 53 residential structures have been counted as affected, but assessments are still coming in. About 22,000 Dominion customers in the city are still without power.

All major roads have been opened; however, 51 secondary roads remain closed because of power lines in water or complete flooding. Below is a complete list.

  • Barnes Road between Brentwood Road and Ruritan Boulevard
  • Bosley Avenue between Smith and Gittings streets
  • Butler Drive
  • Carolina Road at Copeland Road
  • Deerpath Road
  • Desert Road.
  • Dutch Road
  • E. Washington St./County St.
  • Freeman Mill Road between Mineral Spring and Route 13
  • Gardner Lane
  • Garfield Ave.
  • Girl Scout Camp Road
  • Girl Scout Road
  • Godwin Blvd.
  • Holland Corner Road
  • Holland Road
  • Hosier Road
  • Indian Trail/Kings Fork Road
  • Indian Trail
  • Jasmine Lane
  • Judkins Road
  • Leafwood Road
  • Liberty Springs Road
  • Little Fork Road
  • Main St./Market St.
  • Manning Road
  • Matoaka Road
  • Nansemond Parkway
  • O’Kelly Drive
  • Old Mill Road
  • Old Myrtle Road
  • Oyster Bay Lane
  • Park Road/999 Maryland Ave.
  • Pioneer Road
  • Quaker Road
  • S 6th St./ E. Washington St.
  • Shoulders Hill Road/Nansemond Parkway
  • Sleepy Hole Road at River Breeze
  • Smith St./Bosley Ave.
  • Townsend Place/Braebourne Court
  • W. Riverview Drive/Darden Lane
  • W. Riverview Drive
  • Wedgewood Drive
  • Whaleyville Blvd./Herman Court
  • Wilroy Road/E. Constance Road
  • Wilroy Road/Jotom Lane
  • Wilson St.

UPDATE Sunday 1 p.m.

Following is a list of the most recent road openings and closures:

  • The right and center lanes of eastbound Portsmouth Boulevard in the 1900 block are now clear.
  • Freeman Mill Road between Mineral Springs Road and Route 13 (south end) is closed because of downed trees and downed power lines.
  • West Riverview Drive is closed because of downed trees.
  • Leafwood Road has restricted access in both directions because of a downed tree blocking one lane.
  • The downed tree at Brittle Tree is not affecting traffic flow at this time.

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy announced it will be closed tomorrow.

UPDATE Sunday 10:45 a.m.

People who need water will be able to get it today and tomorrow.

Residents can bring clean jugs to be filled with potable water today from 1 to 6 p.m. and Monday beginning at 8:30 a.m.

The water will be dispensed at Lakeland High School, 214 Kenyon Road, and at the Suffolk Airport’s main gate, 1200 Gene Bolton Drive.

A city spokeswoman said the tap water is safe to drink, but the city wanted to provide water for people who are having problems getting water from their well because of power outages or other issues.

Everybody who sought refuge from the storm at the city’s emergency shelters left this morning, and the shelters have been deactivated.

UPDATE Sunday 8:45 a.m.

The city has begun evaluation and recovery plans as recovery from Hurricane Irene begins.

Public Works has begun assessment and evaluation of roadway conditions, debris amounts and removal, and drainage structures, bridges and culverts.

The majority of trees cleared by Public Works were on U.S. Route 58. The public is asked to call 514-7630 to report issues regarding debris.

Public Utilities will concentrate efforts on the numerous pumping stations without power or experiencing high water levels.

The public shelters at the three high schools are set to close at 3 p.m. Shelter managers are coordinating with citizens staying there.

A multitude of roads are closed throughout the city:

  • S. 6th St/E. Washington St.
  • Finney St./Moore Ave. (restricted)
  • 1900 block Carolina Rd. (restricted)
  • Pitchkettle/Meade Parkway (restricted)
  • 430 block Wedgewood Dr.
  • 1400 block Holland Rd.
  • 4800 block Gardner Lane
  • E. Washington/County St.
  • Airport Rd./Carolina Rd. (restricted)
  • Sleepy Hole/Bennett’s Pasture Rd.
  • 500 and 700 block Lummis Rd.
  • Sleepy Hole/Sandy Lakes (restricted)
  • 8800 block Adams Dr.
  • Rt. 189/Old S. Quay
  • 4900 block Nansemond Parkway (restricted)
  • Rt. 58/Pruden Blvd. (westbound restricted)
  • 17/Shoulder’s Hill Rd. (northbound restricted)
  • Indian Trail/King’s Fork Rd.
  • 800 block Liberty Springs Rd.
  • S. Quay/Brentwood (restricted)
  • 5100 block Holy Neck Rd.
  • 3800 block Whaleyville Blvd.
  • 1300 block Holland Rd.
  • Arthur Dr/Pittmantown Rd.
  • O’Kelly near Quaker
  • 6600 block Whaleyville Blvd (southbound restricted)
  • Fayette St at Cedar and S. Main
  • 300 block Pioneer
  • Wilroy/E. Constance Rd.
  • Wilroy/Jotom
  • 100 block Roundtree Crescent
  • Main St/Market St.
  • Roundtree Crescent between Greenway and Whaleyville Blvd.
  • Bosley between Smith and Gittings
  • Moore past Finney (restricted)
  • 3000 block Holland Rd. (westbound restricted)
  • Smith/Bosley
  • Whaleyville Blvd/Herman Ct.
  • 3800 block Whaleyville Blvd.
  • 2400 block E. Washington St.
  • W. Riverview/Darden Lane
  • 800 block Wilroy Rd.
  • Wilroy Rd./Progress Rd (restricted)
  • County St/Spruce St
  • Holland Rd./Manning Bridge Rd. (restricted)
  • 1100 block White Marsh Rd.
  • 900 block Murphy’s Mill Rd.
  • Rt 164/College Dr. (westbound)
  • 200 block Locust St.
  • 4300 block Sleepy Hole Rd (southbound)
  • 400 block Pinner St. (northbound)
  • 2200 block Wilroy Rd.
  • Park Rd./Maryland Ave.
  • 4900 & 5300 block Mineral Springs Rd.
  • 900 & 1200 block Murphy’s Mill Rd.
  • S. Broad/Virginia Ave.
  • Locust St.
  • 2700-2800 Godwin Blvd.
  • 4800 block Gardner Lane
  • 8000 block Clubhouse Dr. (restricted)
  • N. Main St/Godwin Blvd.
  • E. Pinner/Finney
  • Shoulder’s Hill/Nansemond Parkway
  • Arthur Dr. near Boone Town
  • Sleepy Hole Rd. at River Breeze
  • County St. at Culloden St.
  • 600 block County St
  • 400 block East Pinner (restricted)
  • 2200 block King’s Highway
  • 300 block Beech St (restricted)
  • 3700 block Indian Trail
  • Great Fork between Little Fork & Mineral Springs Rd.
  • Holland at underpass from downtown Holland
  • 900 block Dutch Rd.
  • 4200 block Arthur Drive
  • 200 block Little Fork Rd.
  • 2600 block Manning Rd.
  • 100 block Greenfield Cres.
  • Constance/Kingsboro
  • 2600 block Manning Bridge Rd.
  • Liberty/E. Washington St.
  • 5700 block Old Myrtle Rd.
  • 7500 block Indian Trail

UPDATE Sunday 1 a.m.

The weather appears to be milder outside, but city officials are warning that strong gusts still could occur and citizens should still stay inside.

A curfew is in effect through 8 a.m. Only law enforcement officers and regular employees of local industries on their way to or from work are exempt.

At 11 p.m., the center of Hurricane Irene was located about 50 miles east of Norfolk. It was moving north-northeast at 16 miles per hour and packed winds of 80 miles per hour.

Moderate to severe coastal flooding from storm surge is ongoing, according to the National Weather Service.

The city remains under a hurricane warning and flood warning.

Dominion Virginia Power reports that thousands of its customers remain without power in Suffolk. The company offers the following tips for after-the-storm safety:

  • Call Dominion at 1-866-DOM-HELP (1-866-366-4357) to report an outage.
  • Stay away from fallen wires, flooded areas and debris. Treat all fallen wires and anything touching them as though they are energized.
  • When using a generator, keep it in a well-ventilated area. Never place it indoors or in an attached garage. Don’t connect it directly to your home’s wiring — electricity could flow backward onto the system and endanger the lives of repair personnel — or try to refuel it while it’s running. Keep children away.
  • Visually inspect the area around your electricity meter. If you detect or suspect any damage, call 1-866-DOM-HELP.

UPDATE Saturday 9:20 p.m.

Though weather conditions are slowly improving, there are still many flooded areas as well as downed trees, poles and power lines in Suffolk.

Wind speeds are dropping, with the most recent gusts recorded at only 35 miles per hour. Rainfall amounts across the city range from 4 ¾ to 8 inches, according to a city press release.

There is a chance of isolated showers until noon tomorrow, with weather then clearing up.

Teams from the city’s Public Works and Public Utilities departments will be out in the early morning to assess damages. Residents can call 514-7630 after 8:30 a.m. to report issues regarding storm debris.

Residents are reminded there is a curfew in effect through 8 a.m. Sunday morning.

Suffolk emergency dispatchers responded to more than 377 calls for service throughout the storm.

About 133 people have sought refuge at the city’s three high schools, which are the designated emergency shelters.

Transportation issues will be assessed tomorrow. Shelters will close by 3 p.m., according to the press release.

UPDATE Saturday 7:30 p.m.

Because of unsafe road conditions throughout the city, City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn has signed a Declared State of Local Emergency declaration, which imposes a curfew for the entire city between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.

The order does not apply to law enforcement officers. Regular employees of local industries are exempt while traveling to and from their jobs, provided they have identification if stopped by any law enforcement personnel.

Violators of the curfew may be subject to fines or imprisonment, according to a city press release.

Dominion Virginia Power says that more than 20,000 of its 35,000 customers in Suffolk are without power.

The public information telephone number for the Emergency Operations Center has been changed to 514-4100.

UPDATE Saturday 5 p.m.

The Nansemond River and its tributaries are expected to reach record levels at high tide this evening, the city reports.

High tide should hit around 8:30 p.m. The storm surge will rapidly increase water levels about 3 to 5 feet, according to a city press release.

The situation will have a major impact at the Kimberly Bridge on North Main Street, which floods frequently in major storms. The road already is closed to traffic because it is flooded.

Winds continue at 50 to 60 miles per hour, with higher gusts possible until 2 a.m. Winds should die down to 30 or 40 miles per hour after that time. A tornado watch issued for the city has expired, but the city still is under hurricane and flood warnings.

The Suffolk Police Department says there are a number of abandoned vehicles in roadways where drivers have attempted to drive through flooded areas and become stuck. Residents are again encouraged to refrain from driving because many areas are impassable.

There have been reports of deaths throughout Virginia and North Carolina as a result of the storm, including at least one in Newport News.

The city reports its damage assessment teams will hit the streets once the weather threat is less severe.

UPDATE Saturday 3:20 p.m.

As Hurricane Irene continues to bear down on Hampton Roads, weather conditions are worsening.

Hurricane-force winds are expected until 7 p.m. Peak winds are anticipated at 4 p.m., and could reach 74 miles per hour. The city remains under a hurricane warning, flood warning and tornado watch.

Flooding continues to be an issue at several locations throughout the city. Holland Road is impassable at the underpass from downtown Holland. The 2600 block of Manning Road is closed, and Manning Bridge Road is closed because of downed trees.

North Main Street continues to be closed at the Kimberly Bridge because of heavy flooding.

Additional damages to homes include a tree falling on a house in the 6100 block of Old Town Point Road.

Citizens continue to arrive at emergency shelters, with 107 reported at the three high schools.

Dominion Virginia Power says that more than 19,000 accounts are currently without power in the Suffolk area.

Residents are strongly encouraged to stay off the roads for their own safety, as well as not to jeopardize emergency responses.

The American Red Cross is mobilizing volunteers and staff throughout Hampton Roads to respond as soon as the storm passes. The organization  urged people to stay inside, get in the interior of their home with the fewest windows and doors and use their landline phones first to make calls, since cellular networks can become overwhelmed during a storm.

UPDATE Saturday at noon

Suffolk police have received a multitude of calls for downed trees, wires hanging and power poles leaning, according to a news release from the city.

The following roads were closed as of a noon update from the city: East Washington Street at County Street because of downed power lines; North Main Street at Constance Road because of flooding; and the 1200 block of Nansemond Parkway because of downed trees.

There currently are 85 people at the city’s three high schools, which are the designated emergency shelters. People continue to arrive at the shelters, according to the release. Nansemond River High School, the city’s first pet-friendly shelter, housed two dogs and three cats at noon.

There have been reports of awnings blown off commercial buildings on East Washington Street, a partial roof blown off a residence in that area, and roof blown off homes in the Spruce Street and South Main Street areas.

Residents in the Crittenden area and numerous other places throughout the city remain without power.

The city has pulled all its crews off the street and will respond to emergency calls only, according to an alert posted on Twitter.

Citizens should stay off the roads because of extremely dangerous driving conditions.

UPDATE Saturday 11 a.m.

Hurricane Irene is in full swing in Suffolk.

The city has experienced nearly 3 inches of rain since midnight, with the highest wind gusts measured at about 44 miles per hour. Officials anticipate that the strongest winds of this event will be between 4 and 5 p.m., topping out at about 69 miles per hour.

Tornado warnings have been in effect intermittently throughout the morning, but no twisters have yet been spotted, according to city spokeswoman Debbie George. A tornado warning is in effect until 8 p.m.

There currently are about 4,000 customers without power in Suffolk, according to a Dominion Virginia Power outage map. Crews from power companies in Tennessee and other states were in town to help restore power.

A number of roads are closed because of downed trees and flooding. Public Works has six crews working to clear downed trees from roadways. Nine blockages have already been cleared. As of 10:30 a.m., roads were closed in the 6600 block of O’Kelly Drive, the 3400 block of Walters Avenue, the 600 block of Battery Avenue and the 2300 block of King’s Highway. North Main Street is closed at the Kimberly Bridge because of flooding.

There currently are more than 60 people at the shelters, which are the three high schools. There was a brief power outage at Lakeland High School, but electricity was restored.

The telephone number for the city’s Emergency Operations Center is 514-4570. Representatives from all city departments are on site monitoring situations throughout the city.

UPDATE Saturday 1 a.m.

As Hurricane Irene’s outer bands begin to roll into town, a tornado watch has just been issued for the city of Suffolk.

The tornado watch is in effect until 11 a.m. Saturday. Residents should pay attention to weather warnings for the latest information.

In addition, President Barack Obama has declared a federal emergency in Virginia, especially among specific areas that include the city of Suffolk. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency made the announcement just after 12:30 a.m.

The move authorizes FEMA to coordinate disaster relief efforts and provide assistance for emergency measures.

At midnight, the storm was about 300 miles south of Norfolk. It was moving north-northeast at 13 miles per hour.

Rain is beginning to pelt Suffolk, and winds are picking up. Residents are urged to stay inside if at all possible.

UPDATE Friday 8 p.m.

Hurricane Irene weakened throughout Friday and failed to strengthen again, but the storm is still charting a course that will pack a punch to Hampton Roads.

The storm now has sustained winds of 100 miles per hour, making it a Category 2. But weather officials still anticipate power outages, 8 to 12 inches of rain and a storm surge of 3 to 6 feet above ground level.

Though the worst effects will be felt closer to the coast, Suffolk is not immune.

The storm is about 360 miles south of Norfolk, according to the National Weather Service.

Suffolk is under a hurricane warning and flood watch. Tropical storm conditions on Saturday are a near certainty, with hurricane conditions possible.

Residents are urged to make any last-minute preparations now, including evacuating if necessary.

Those staying should close shutters, brace garage doors, turn off propane tanks and unplug small appliances.

People should also turn the refrigerator to maximum cold and keep it closed, in an effort to preserve food until power is restored. They should also fill their bathtub with water for cleaning and flushing purposes.

The city’s Emergency Operations Center is set to activate at 7 a.m. Saturday. The telephone number is 514-4570.

UPDATE Friday 1:30 p.m.

The city of Suffolk is encouraging evacuations for low-lying areas and mobile homes, Gov. Robert McDonnell announced during a conference call with media this afternoon.

He said Hurricane Irene will be “greater than Isabel,” a 2003 storm that affected the area, and has the potential to cause a storm surge of 3 to 6 feet.

“It is very important people heed the warnings and do it now,” the governor said. “Tomorrow will be too late.”

He added that it is possible the storm could strengthen and alter its course to the west. Doing so would bring even worse impacts to the Hampton Roads area.

The governor has requested a federal emergency declaration and activated the Virginia National Guard, he said.

Bridges and tunnels likely will close once the storm kicks into full gear.

“You need to prepare today,” McDonnell said. “If you’re going to leave, leave today.”

The city of Suffolk has designated the three high schools as emergency shelters. They will open at 8 p.m. tonight. All shelters are ADA complaint. Lakeland and Nansemond River have generator power for emergency lighting and to support the kitchens. King’s Fork is fully generator powered.

Citizens are responsible for their own personal comfort and needs while at the shelter. They should bring the following items in sufficient quantities for each family member: Identification, water, blankets, cots, folding chairs, inflatable mattresses, pillows, linens, hygiene products, plastic bags, trash bags, flashlights and batteries, snack foods and beverages that don’t require heating or cooking, plastic utensils, handheld can openers, two changes of clothing, baby supplies, feminine hygiene products, incontinence products, medications and first aid supplies, facial tissues, entertainment such as games and books, copies of Social Security cards, birth certificates and military IDs, watertight containers and important phone numbers and documents.

The pet-friendly shelter at Nansemond River will accept dogs and cats only. Owners must stay with their pets. Exotic, sick, contagious or aggressive animals will not be accepted. Food will be supplied by Suffolk Animal Control. Prescription diets must be provided by the owner. Owners must bring medications and proof of current rabies vaccine. All dogs must have collars.

UPDATE Friday 1 p.m.

Tonight’s football game scheduled between King’s Fork High School and Norfolk’s Booker T. Washington High School has been canceled. It will be rescheduled at a later date.

UPDATE Friday at noon

Gov. Robert McDonnell has ordered all state offices closed at 3 p.m. in potential hurricane impact areas, including Suffolk.

He challenged other employers to do the same so that employees can prepare for Hurricane Irene.

“Citizens, including state employees, should be taking seriously the need to prepare for this significant storm and to ready their families, homes and communities for the possible evacuation and for the impacts of Hurricane Irene,” McDonnell said. “I am sending non-essential state employees home to prepare for the hurricane and to relieve congestion to aid in local evacuations, and I challenge other employers in those affected areas to release non-essential employees to enable them to prepare for Hurricane Irene as well.”

Ebenezer United Methodist Church will open its Family Life Center for the public to take shelter from the hurricane. The center will open at 1 p.m. on Saturday, and people should bring flashlights, batteries, food, bedding, entertainment such as games and books, and any required medications. The shelter will not be able to accept pets. For more information, contact the church at 238-2359.

UPDATE Friday 9 a.m.

A hurricane warning has been issued for the city of Suffolk and surrounding areas.

The National Weather Service warned residents to evacuate if their home is prone to flooding.

“Now is the time to rush to completion preparations for the protection of life and property,” said a statement from the weather service about the warning.

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy has canceled all after-school activities for Friday.

UPDATE Thursday 10 p.m.

City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn has signed a Declaration of Emergency for Suffolk.

All weekend city-sponsored activities have been canceled, including the TGIF concert, Suffolk Summer Slam, the regular farmers’ market, Jericho Community Day and all picnic shelter rentals at city parks.

UPDATE Thursday 9 p.m.

A flash flood watch has just been issued for Suffolk and the surrounding area. It is in effect from Friday evening through Saturday evening.

Heavy rainfall from Hurricane Irene will begin to push into the watch area early Saturday morning and continue through Sunday morning.

A flash flood watch means that conditions may develop that lead to flash flooding, which is a very dangerous situation.

Residents should monitor the forecast and be prepared to take action should flash flood warnings be issued.

UPDATE Thursday 6:10 p.m.

Gov. Robert McDonnell has declared a state of emergency and given localities the authority to order mandatory evacuations ahead of Hurricane Irene.

A hurricane watch has been issued for coastal communities from Florida to New England, including Suffolk. A hurricane watch means that hurricane conditions are possible within the next 48 hours.

The area should begin seeing effects of the storm Saturday morning.

At 5 p.m. the storm was located about 690 miles south of Norfolk. Sustained winds in the storm are about 115 miles per hour.

The city of Suffolk is making preparations to open the Emergency Operations Center on a limited activation status Friday at 8:30 a.m. It will open on full activation status on Saturday.

City offices will close at noon Friday. Facilities typically open on Saturdays, such as libraries, the Visitor Center and Parks and Recreation facilities, will be closed Saturday. The Visitor Center will remain closed Sunday.

Evacuation shelters will open Friday at 8 p.m. The designated shelters are the three high schools — King’s Fork High School, 351 Kings Fork Road; Lakeland High School, 214 Kenyon Road; and Nansemond River High School, 3301 Nansemond Parkway. NRHS is the pet-friendly shelter.

The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge closed at 5 p.m. Thursday and will not reopen until after refuge managers and fire officials are able to assess the storm’s effects on the fire and the refuge as a whole.

Tidewater Community College will be closed Friday through Sunday. They have yet to decide about Monday, a spokeswoman said.

Some events initially scheduled for Saturday have been postponed or canceled. The Suffolk Summer Slam concert by Impact Suffolk is canceled and will not be rescheduled. The rabies vaccination clinic by Suffolk Humane Society and Suffolk Animal Control is rescheduled for Sept. 24. The regular downtown farmers’ market will not be held this weekend.