Irma bringing some rain, not much else to Hampton Roads

Heavy rain and high winds from Hurricane Irma, now a tropical storm, probably won’t make it to Virginia, forecasters said Monday.

Hampton Roads still has rain in the forecast a few days this week — most as a result of tropical moisture left over from the storm, National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Dutter said.

“The hurricane and its impact is going to stay well south and west of the region,” Dutter said Monday.

Hurricane Irma was downgraded to a tropical storm Monday and was expected to weaken to a tropical depression Tuesday, according to AccuWeather.com. Tracking maps updated Monday still showed the storm moving up through Florida and into Georgia and Tennessee, but not close to Virginia.

The threat for rip currents remained this week for much of the area, including the Southside and down through the Outer Banks, Dutter said.

The strong, narrow currents flow out from beaches through surf zones and present a hazard to swimmers. Meteorologists say they’re caused by Hurricane Irma churning south and a high-pressure system in the north.

Irma’s dangerous winds and rain caused airports in and around Florida to cancel thousands of flights. Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport canceled all eight of its Charlotte flights and two Atlanta flights Monday, airport spokeswoman Jessica Wharton said.

“The weather has impacted all of our flights here today,” Wharton said, noting the airport has flights from Atlanta scheduled to come in Monday night that may be canceled due to weather conditions.

A roughly 400-mile-wide storm, Hurricane Irma made back-to-back landfalls in the Florida Keys and on Marco Island over the weekend. Its high winds snapped a construction crane in Miami, damaged roofs and sent debris flying in the low-lying Keys, and spurned a tornado that destroyed six mobile homes in Palm Bay.

More than 6.5 million Florida homes and businesses were without power Monday afternoon, according to Florida state's emergency management division. Florida Power and Light, which provides a majority of customers with power, warned it could take weeks before electricity is fully restored.

On Monday, Dominion Energy workers in Virginia prepared to head south to respond to what the company said is likely to be one of the largest electric industry restoration efforts in the United States.

“We are making final preparations throughout the day to mobilize employees and prepare equipment to depart Tuesday morning to Florida, where they can begin supporting our friends and neighbors in this massive undertaking,” said Ed Baine, Dominion Energy senior vice president of power delivery.

More than 120 Dominion Energy employees, including linemen, damage assessors and safety experts are heading to Florida with 300 contractors from Virginia and North Carolina. They join 300 tree contractors who started early work of removing trees and debris ahead of line crews, the company said in a news release.

Others from the region have gone south to assist with hurricane aid and recovery efforts, including Navy sailors and Marines on the USS Iwo Jima and USS New York at Naval Station Norfolk and a group of 45 firefighters from Hampton Roads.

Heavy rain covered all of Georgia except its southeast section Monday afternoon, as well as all of South Carolina, and almost all of Alabama. In many areas, the rain was falling heavily, the Washington Post reported.

“Intense rainfall rates of 2 inches or more per hour is leading to flash flooding and rapid rises on creeks, streams and rivers,” the National Hurricane Center said.

Tuesday’s high will be near 80 degrees with a slight chance of rain after 2 p.m. The forecast for Wednesday and Thursday includes rain and a chance of thunderstorms, according to the National Weather Service.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Canty can be reached by phone at 247-4832. Follow her on Twitter @DPMCanty.

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