Wednesday 9 p.m. update: Hurricane Florence remains on track to make landfall near the North Carolina-South Carolina border.
The Category 3 storm has maximum sustained winds of 115 mph and is expected to impact the area between Hampton Roads and South Carolina starting Thursday afternoon, according to the National Hurricane Center forecasts.
A coastal flood watch is in effect for tidal rivers and the lower Chesapeake Bay, according to a National Weather Service news release.
Despite lower projected amounts of rainfall, the National Weather Service has said there is still an elevated risk of flooding.
The rainfall combined with tropical storm force winds could down trees across the region, the release said.
Wednesday 5:15 p.m. update:
Florence has been downgraded to a Category 3 hurricane by the National Weather Service.
The hurricane’s maximum sustained wind speeds have decreased to around 120 miles per hour, making it a Category 3 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, according to the federal agency’s latest public advisory.
At 5 p.m, the National Weather Service tracked Florence as being 385 miles southeast of Wilmington, NC and about 420 miles to the east, southeast of Myrtle Beach. The storm is moving northwest at around 16 miles per hour, the agency reports.
There were uncertainties in the prediction earlier in the day, with chances that the storm could strengthen to a Category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.
Despite the downgrade, Florence is still classified as a major hurricane, according to the National Weather Service.
Wednesday 4:50 update:
The Virginia Department of Forestry has announced that it has placed three 11-person chainsaw crews and two Incident Management Teams on standby in response to Hurricane Florence’s impending landfall and Governor Northam’s declaration of a state of emergency.
Emergency responders are also prepared to support local and statewide requests for assistance placed locally and throughout the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, according to the release. John Miller, director of the VDOF Fire and Emergency Response Division, said crews are ready be deployed where their help is most needed.
“Preparation is key; being prepared at home to make sure family is taken care of as well as being prepared to respond on a moment’s notice to anywhere in the state,” he said.
Wednesday 4 p.m. update:
Rain is likely to start hitting the Williamsburg area at around noon Thursday and could persist until next Wednesday, according to Jeff Orrock, meteorologist-in-charge at the National Weather Service’s Wakefield forecast office.
Forecasters predict 3 to 5 inches of rain in Hampton Roads over the next few days, which could be accompanied by 30 mile per hour sustained wind speeds and 45 to 50 mile per hour gusts, he said. Orrock predicts that winds will reach their peak late Friday and into Saturday.
“We're not talking about these horrific amounts we were talking about earlier this week, but there’s still a possibility for flooding that's still a little bit of a concern,” he said.
Flooding is likely along the lower James River and on Jamestown Island, as previously projected. Parts of James City County could see a rapid rise in creek water called a flood wave as rains persist, Orrock said.
“We're not going to have a life-threatening (storm) surge here in Virginia, it's just not going to happen, but it's going to be enough for people to move their cars and protect their property,” he said.
Orrock said the National Weather Service could lose contact with local offices in North and South Carolina as Florence makes landfall later this week.
Wednesday 3:15 p.m. update:
Some area services that either postponed or cancelled service in anticipation of Hurricane Florence are beginning to re-open as today’s projections show the hurricane shifting south and posing less of a threat to the Williamsburg area.
James City County government offices, parks, libraries and the Recreation Center will stay open and will follow normal operating hours after announcing closures on Tuesday, according to a release from the county.
The one exception is the Chickahominy Riverfront Park fishing pier, which will remain closed until further notice. The county’s Emergency Operations Center will be partially activated on Thursday and Friday to continue monitoring conditions, the release states.
Students and staff will be back in school after a day off when Williamsburg-James City County Schools and offices re-open on Thursday, according to a release posted on the school system’s website.
In the release, WJCC Schools cite the improving forecasts as the reason for the re-opening.
“According to weather reports, the storm continues to move southward, reducing the risk of significant impacts to our area,” the release states. “Based on that change, City and County leaders tell us that school buildings will not be needed as shelters and may once again be used for instruction.”
Wednesday 2 p.m. update:
According to the federal agency’s latest report, issued at 2 p.m. Wednesday, the hurricane’s peak winds have decreased slightly but the size of the wind force has increased, with maximum sustained winds recorded at 120 miles per hour.
Storm surges and hurricane-force winds are likely along portions of the coastlines of South and North Carolina. The latest projections show Florence slowing down as it approaches the coast and moves inland, which are likely to cause flash floods in the Carolinas late this week and into next week, according to the National Weather Service.
12:20 p.m. Wednesday
Governor Ralph Northam has opened state-managed shelters at William and Mary’s Sadler Center and Christopher Newport University’s Freeman Center to accommodate residents fleeing their homes following mandatory evacuation orders issued in Coastal Virginia and surrounding states.
According to a news release from the governor’s office, state-coordinated regional shelters are opened if a weather event’s actual or projected demand for sheltering exceeds the local jurisdiction’s capabilities
24 localities across the state are opening local shelters to assist residents, according to the release.
“Virginians are heeding our advice to seek higher ground and safe shelter in advance of Hurricane Florence,” said Governor Northam in the release. “We encourage citizens to seek shelter first with friends and family, to consider hotels outside of evacuation areas, and then look to local shelters, and lastly to state shelters. Leave early. Plan to be off the roads before the storm arrives to avoid unsafe driving situations and traffic congestion, and stay put until the storm passes.”
According to the release, the state shelters provide only basic, necessary services and support to help ensure disaster survivors are able to stay safe. Residents looking to enter the state-managed shelters will not be required to show any form of identification or proof of residency, and are advised to bring along emergency kits, medication, batteries, chargers and any necessary special medical equipment. Service animals will be allowed at all shelters, and services will be available for people with disabilities or any special needs.
York County will also be opening a shelter at Tabb High School on Big Bethel Road in Yorktown beginning at 2 p.m. Wednesday, according to public information officer Gail Whittaker.
The county has also opened three parking lots where residents can park their boats, trailers, RVs and other vehicles, located at:
- The McReynolds Athletic Complex (MAC), 412 Sports Way, 23692
- Chisman Creek Park, 1314 Wolf Trap Road, 23692
- Kiln Creek Park, 2901 Kiln Creek Parkway, 23693
Wednesday 11:45 update:
Tropical storm conditions are still possible in the Williamsburg area though Hurricane Florence has tracked farther to the south, according to the National Weather Service.
Though Hurricane Florence has tracked to the south recently, it is expected to be a large storm and will effect areas well beyond the storm’s center, according to a National Weather Service briefing released at around 10 a.m. Wednesday.
York County is under a coastal flooding advisory until 4 p.m. Wednesday. The Historic Triangle is at an elevated risk for heavy winds, though southern Hampton Roads is at a greater risk, according to the National Weather Service.
The storm is moving north, northwest at 17 miles per hour. Rainfall is still projected at up to 4 inches for the upper Peninsula and the Historic Triangle is at an elevated risk for flooding.
7:40 a.m. Wednesday
Though rainfall estimates have decreased, dangerous flooding could occur through the weekend as a result of Hurricane Florence, according to the National Weather Service.
Further strengthening of Hurricane Florence, now a Category 4 storm, could occur Wednesday. The storm is expected to slow down as it approaches the North Carolina-South Carolina coast, which makes landfall timing less certain, according to the National Weather Service.
The storm is moving west, northwest at 17 miles per hour. Rainfall is now projected at up to 4 inches for the upper Peninsula.
York County is under a coastal flooding advisory until 4 p.m. Wednesday. Tropical storm conditions are possible in the Williamsburg area Thursday.
6:30 a.m. Wednesday
While current models show Hurricane Florence making landfall farther from the Peninsula, Williamsburg area could feel tropical storm conditions as early as Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.
A coastal flood advisory is in effect until 4 p.m. on Wednesday in the Williamsburg area. Hazardous conditions can develop in areas outside the cone of the storm center’s probable path, according to the National Weather Service. The cone doesn’t show the size of the storm.
Florence strengthened into a Category 4 storm on Monday, and the National Weather Service expects Virginia to South Carolina to feel its effects as early as Thursday night.
Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools and York County Public Schools are closed until further notice due to Hurricane Florence. James City government offices, parks and the recreation center will be closed Thursday through Saturday.
The Surry Power Plant will conduct routine emergency siren testing on Wednesday at 11:20 a.m., according to a Williamsburg news release. The testing is unrelated to Hurricane Florence.
To report downed electrical lines or check on power restoration efforts, call Dominion Energy at 1-866-366-4357 or on the internet at dominionenergy.com/outage-center/report-and-check-outages.
To check on internet or telephone service, call Cox Communications at 1-800-234-3993 or on the Internet at www.cox.com.
This story will be updated as more information is made available.