Emergency management personnel in the Roanoke and New River Valleys have been preparing in tandem for the arrival of the remnants of Hurricane Ian all week, the Roanoke Emergency Management Battalion Chief said Friday. , Trevor Shannon.
“We spoke directly with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and the National Weather Service,” Shannon said. “It’s not just each locality doing its own thing. We have conversations throughout the week and try to plan these things out so that we respond as a unit and not necessarily as each individual locality.
The storm, which had already carved a destructive path through Florida, made landfall for the second time in South Carolina on Friday afternoon and headed inland. The National Weather Service had Ian – reclassified as a post-tropical cyclone – on a projected track north through central North Carolina overnight, then passing almost directly over the Roanoke Valley at noon Saturday.
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Governor Glenn Youngkin declared a state of emergency for Virginia on Wednesday, giving the state time to mobilize emergency resources and equipment needed for response and recovery efforts.
Youngking encouraged “all Virginians and visitors to make a plan, have supplies on hand, and follow official sources for the latest forecast information and advice,” the press release said.
Phil Hysell, a meteorologist in charge of coordinating warnings for the National Weather Service in Blacksburg, said Friday that southwestern Virginia could experience heavy rain Friday night through Saturday morning.
“During this period, we could see between 2 and 3 inches of rain, which could lead to localized flooding, especially in urban areas and low-lying areas,” Hysell said.
Shannon said his crews in Roanoke are preparing for the rain by carefully staffing his public safety units.
“We’ll have two whitewater boat crews on duty starting tonight around 7 p.m., and they’ll be working until 7 a.m.,” Shannon said Friday. “We will reassess tomorrow morning. But it looks like the heaviest weather will come tonight until tomorrow morning. »
Hysell said that during the same period, residents can also expect to see gusts of wind between 25 and 45 mph.
“Some of the higher elevations may see a higher gust of wind,” Hysell said. “It will knock down a few trees, regarding the wet ground with these winds. This will cause isolated to scattered power outages, and could even bring trees blocking roads. »
Shannon said that in addition to staffing boat crews in Roanoke, four other people will provide a “technical rescue truck.”
“The benefit of this technical lifesaving equipment is that with increasing winds and the likelihood of downed trees and power lines, they will be able to assist in situations that may involve downed trees,” said Shannon.
The battalion chief said some streets in the city that are known to be flooded will also be “pre-arranged” with barricades.
The city’s transportation division announced the social media On Friday, Wiley Drive near Wasena Park, as well as the low water bridge at Smith Park and Winona Avenue, would be closed until further notice due to the impending storm.
Hysell said smaller creeks and creeks could produce localized flash flooding on Friday night.
“Because we’ve been pretty dry recently, major rivers like the Roanoke River can handle a lot of rainfall,” Hysell said, “so we’re not looking at a big river flooding issue.”
The meteorologist said that while the storm could lose its tropical nature by the time it arrives in southwestern Virginia, a flood watch is in effect for the area through Saturday afternoon.
“We have wind advisories in effect which also pass early Saturday afternoon,” Hysell said. “Anytime we have watches, warnings and advisories in effect that show our level of concern that this is a potential threat to life and property.”
Hysell said the No. 1 storm-related killer in Virginia is flash flooding.
“Most of these deaths are the result of people driving their vehicles on water-covered roads,” Hysell said. “It only takes 12 to 18 inches of water to sweep a vehicle off a road or even damage a pavement.”
Hysell and Shannon encourage drivers to turn around when they encounter water on the road.
“There is a reason why there are barricades on the road. And if it says “Road closed”, it means the road is closed for everyone. Every once in a while we get people who say, ‘Well, I didn’t think this was for me’ or ‘But I had to go to the store,’” Shannon said. “There’s a lot more danger with moving water than you could ever think of while you’re just in a rush to get to the store.”
Shannon also encouraged residents to sign up for alerts through mass notification systems in their localities and keep a 72-hour preparedness kit handy.
“It’s something we’d like them to have throughout the year and be ready when they need it, so they don’t panic and rush to the store to buy all the the last bottles of water they have,” Shannon said.
The battalion commander said while the opening of shelter stations has yet to be scheduled, his teams are working closely with the American Red Cross to determine the need for such stations as the storm continues. .
Hysell said moisture-laden remnants of the storm could move through the southwestern Virginia region through Sunday.
“We will see some lingering rain with the remnants of Ian through at least Sunday and Sunday evening, but the precipitation rates, by tomorrow afternoon and Sunday, will be much lighter, and the winds will also be lighter,” , Hysell said. “It will remain a bit dreary and damp throughout the weekend.”
The Roanoke Rescue Mission, a homeless shelter, was prepared on Friday to welcome guests during the storm.
“Whenever weather events occur, we do our best to speak with our guests about the upcoming weather,” spokesperson Kevin Berry said, “but we also keep an eye on it ourselves to see if there’s any weather.” there are outside services that could be affected.”
For example, the shelter’s Manna Food Pantry service, which provides sheltered families with boxes of food throughout the Roanoke area, was suspended all weekend.
“It’s because the weather report has taken a bit of a turn, and we just want to make sure our volunteers, guests and staff are safe,” Berry said.
But the rescue mission’s internal food and shelter services “will continue as they always do”.
“One thing we know is very important to our customers is continuity,” Berry said. “Often they face a lot of movement in their lives, and it is essential to continue to offer the same services, as they generally do.”
New and returning rescue mission guests are encouraged to avail of her services during the storm at all hours.
“We are a haven,” Berry said. “We will have safe daytime shelter for those at the Mission. If you see someone outside before it gets bad, or while it’s bad, let them know the rescue mission is there for them.