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Williamsburg looking at a wet weekend


WILLIAMSBURG — As Hurricane Joaquin veers away from the eastern seaboard, the Historic Triangle still faces what could be a historic amount of rainfall this weekend, according to the latest National Weather Service forecasts.

The Category 4 hurricane is forecast to turn further away from the mainland U.S. than initial predictions.

That doesn't mean we're going to stay dry.

The hurricane's presence in the Atlantic Ocean is stalling a low-pressure front over the East Coast. The combined systems are predicted to produce large amounts of rainfall into Tuesday and Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.

The Commonwealth of Virginia, as well as many area localities, are under a state of emergency.

"Over the next several days we anticipate a significant amount of rain (up to 10") from the current coastal storm and there is a potential risk from Hurricane Joaquin later this weekend," wrote Williamsburg officials in the state of emergency declaration issued Thursday.

James City County followed suit Friday morning, declaring its own local state of emergency. The declaration means localities can then request any needed state and federal resources, as well as federal reimbursements for storm-related expenses.

Friday, James City County sent out a list of closings.

"The store at Little Creek Reservoir Park is closed. No boat rentals at Little Creek Reservoir Park, Chickahominy Riverfront Park or the James City County Marina and no bike rentals at the James City County Marina," according to the emailed message.

The threat of rain canceled many scheduled events for the area including — for only the second time since 1969 — An Occasion for the Arts.

Area residents and visitors, spent the latter part of the week preparing for the storms.

Jim Catlin traveled from Maine to vacation in Williamsburg for two weeks, but late Thursday morning, his scenic view was the bottled water aisle at the Walmart Neighborhood Market off Monticello Avenue.

Like many in the Williamsburg area, Catlin doesn't know what Hurricane Joaquin will bring, but he wanted to be prepared.

At the Food Lion in the Williamsburg Shopping Center, shelves were still well stocked, and store management said trucks were delivering shipments Friday and Saturday.

Ace Peninsula Hardware was expecting a shipment if generators on Friday.

Area attractions were keeping a watchful eye on the weather.

"As we always do in advance of any bad weather, our facilities maintenance staff is busy making sure buildings and sites are secure and safe for our employees and guests. Hotels remain open for our guests, no matter what the weather," said Colonial Williamsburg spokeswoman Barbara Brown.

Busch Gardens, which is open weekends for Howl-O-Scream, was also watching the forecasts.

The park tweeted closings for Saturday late Friday afternoon.

"Due to expected rainy conditions at BG, our outdoor mazes, Lumberhack, Cornered and Cut Throat Cove, will be closed Saturday," according to the tweet.

"The safety of our guests, employees and animals is our highest priority. Like everyone else in Hampton Roads, we are watching weather patterns closely and will determine our best course of action based on Hurricane Joaquin's movement over the next several days," said spokesman Kevin Crossett.

As of Friday morning, both the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation and Historic Jamestown reported regular weekend schedules.

"We've had some high water, but we're keeping our eyes on it," said Liza Eversol, director of administration.

The threat of high water to the archaeological dig at the site of the first permanent English settlement in the New World is forcing staff to prepare precautionary protections including sand bars, tarpaulins and beam scaffolding.

"We also have pumps ready to get rid of any standing ground water," Eversol said.

Jamestown Settlement was taking precautions to insure the safety of its replica ships.

"All ship dock lines and chafe gear have been checked, and sails are securely furled. All hatches or openings where water may come through are secured, as well as items on the decks. Potential tidal flooding will be closely monitored, and a plan is in place to handle gangplanks as required by conditions," said Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation spokeswoman Debbie Padgett.

All three ships are currently at the Jamestown Settlement pier. The Godspeed was scheduled to participate in the Turkey Shoot Regatta in Lancaster County this weekend, but the event was canceled due to the weather.

Colonial National Historical Park plans to remain open through the weekend, although tour roads and portions of the Colonial Parkway may be temporarily closed due to flooding or downed trees.

"The latest projected path of Hurricane Joaquin is not expected to impact the East Coast. Heavy rain over the weekend may cause flooding in low areas and increase the potential for falling trees. Areas of the Park may be closed if conditions become unsafe," shared Deputy Superintendent Steve Williams. "The safety of our staff and visitors is the number one priority."

Staff writer Heather Bridges contributed to this report.

Vaughan can be reached at 757-345-2343.

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