Hermine threatens with wind, water

Published 10:28 pm Friday, September 2, 2016

Tropical Storm Hermine continued to swirl up the East Coast Friday after making landfall early in the morning in Florida.

Hampton Roads started to see wind and rain late Friday afternoon, and the heaviest wind was expected in Suffolk between 6 and 10 a.m. Saturday, according to Alec Butner, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

The city could see wind gusts up to 50 miles per hour, especially in the eastern and northern portions of the city, Butner said. Rain, also, is likely to vary from place to place, with about four to six inches expected on average.

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“Definitely in the coastal areas, we could be seeing some pretty substantial coastal flooding,” Butner said.

A flash flood watch is in effect for Suffolk from 2 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday. The area also was placed under a tropical storm warning on Friday.

A watch means conditions are favorable for the hazard to develop; a warning means the hazard is expected.

While much is being made of the potential for the storm to stall over Virginia, Butner said it will likely be too far north when that happens to have much effect on Hampton Roads. Maryland will be worse, he said.

Government officials and utilities spent Friday making their last preparations for the storm.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency for Virginia on Friday. The move decreases time and paperwork required to get personnel, equipment and supplies where they are needed and ensures a fully coordinated state response, according to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

City spokeswoman Diana Klink said Public Works crews conducted preventive roadway, ditch and culvert maintenance in advance of the storm. They made sure areas known to have problems during heavy rainfall and tidal flooding received special attention.

Equipment was staged in certain areas to avoid delays in blocking off roads, she added. For example, barriers were already waiting along the roadside Friday evening near the Kimberly Bridge on North Main Street, which is a flood-prone area.

Suffolk citizens are encouraged to call the Suffolk Police Department non-emergency line at 923-2350 for storm-related questions, or 514-7600 for non-emergency, roadway-related issues.

Dominion Virginia Power reported it does not anticipate a large impact on its system.

Even so, “we have been actively preparing for this storm for more than a week,” a press release from spokeswoman Bonita Billingsley Harris stated.

“We are staging and deploying crews, personnel and employees to respond as safely and efficiently as possible,” she stated. “We have filled all shifts and added staffing in certain offices, identified additional teams we can deploy if needed, and our trucks are fueled and stocked.”

Dominion customers are encouraged to keep their mobile devices charged.

Dominion also reminds customers that all downed power lines should be treated as live and dangerous. Stay back at least 30 feet, and do not touch anything touching the wire. Keep children and pets out of any area with storm damage. Call 1-866-366-4357 to report a downed wire.

Event cancellations for this weekend include the city farmers’ market at the Suffolk Visitor Center and the Great Dismal Swamp safari, both of which were set for Saturday.

General safety tips issued by the city and other agencies include the following:

  • Do not drive or walk through high water. If water is rising quickly or you see a moving wall of mud or debris, immediately move to higher ground.
  • Know the road conditions before you go out. Visit www.511Virginia.org or dial 511 from any phone for real-time traffic information and road condition reports.
  • Determine in advance the safest route from your home to a safe place that can protect you from high winds or flooding.
  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio and your local media to know when flood watches and warnings are issued.