With Hurricane Florence bearing down on the East Coast, Gov. Ralph Northam has ordered mandatory evacuations in Zone A effective Tuesday.
The evacuation orders went into effect at 8 a.m. Tuesday. Zone A includes low-lying parts of Hampton Roads and the Eastern Shore. In the Historic Triangle, only Jamestown Island and some immediately adjacent areas are in Zone A.
“Hurricane Florence has the potential to cause catastrophic flooding, especially in our coastal areas,” Northam said in a news release. “This evacuation is for the safety of thousands of Virginians living in that zone. But the effects of this storm will be felt statewide, and I encourage everyone in Virginia to prepare now.”
To determine your evacuation zone, visit knowyourzoneva.org. Northam has declared a state of emergency for Virginia.
Previously, on Monday
Hurricane Florence has strengthened into a Category 4 storm, and the National Weather Service expects Virginia to South Carolina to feel its effects as early as Friday morning.
Florence remains hundreds of miles off the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, but forecasters with the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Fla. and the National Weather Service in Wakefield urge residents of Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia to prepare to feel the effects of a projected major hurricane, according to the National Hurricane Center website.
The current projected forecast line has Florence’s eye making landfall between Thursday and Friday near the North Carolina and South Carolina state-border, according to the National Hurricane Center forecasts.
The storm is expected to bring potentially dangerous winds to the entire forecast area, including Hampton Roads, potential tornadoes, storm surge, flooding and dangerous marine conditions from Thursday into Saturday, according to a National Weather Service news release.
The National Weather Service is becoming more confident that Florence could stall over land causing an “exceptionally heavy rainfall event” in the hurricane’s path, the briefing said.
Moderate to major coastal flooding could occur throughout the region on Thursday and through the weekend, according to the briefing.
Parts of York and James City counties could receive evacuation orders from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management before the storm.
The track of the hurricane remains uncertain, but changes in the forecasted track could change Florence’s effects on the region, the briefing said.
Know Your Zone
Area residents should be aware of what hurricane evacuation zone they live in. The majority of the Williamsburg area, including the city itself and most of James City and upper York counties, aren’t in a designated evacuation zone.
People who live or work in areas not located in designated zones aren’t expected to need to evacuate due to any planned-for storm situations, according to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management website.
However, some areas of James City along the Chickahominy River, Diascund Creek and the James River are designated as evacuation zones, according to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management website. To determine whether your address is in an evacuation zone, visit www.KnowYourZoneVA.org.
In York County, county staff began meeting about the hurricane last week, according to York County Fire and Life Safety Chief and Emergency Management Director Stephen Kopczynski.
Fire and life safety workers are checking backup systems including generators and communications systems to make sure no matter how bad the storm is, they’ll be ready, Kopczynski said.
If residents lose internet access, they can access evacuation zone information by calling 757-253-6612, according to a James City news release.
James City officials anticipate opening shelters in response to the storm. More information on shelter openings can be found on JCC Alert, social media and local news media as it becomes available, according to the release.
County officials urged residents to sign up for JCC Alert to receive emergency notifications and alerts at jccalert.org. The program allows county officials to quickly provide information regarding disaster events to residents via phone and email. Calls appear as 757-564-2140 on caller ID, according to the county’s website.
Currently, the city doesn’t intend to open a shelter or evacuate residents.
“There is no plan at this time to open a shelter or to evacuate. Should the decision be made to do so, we will make that announcement,” city spokeswoman Lee Ann Hartmann wrote in an email. “We do not anticipate having to evacuate any residents”
City streets can be susceptible to flooding during heavy rainfall, and residents should move their recycling and trash cans away from the curb after pickup, Hartmann wrote. The public works department is checking drainage ditches and readying equipment to deal with fallen trees or limbs.
The city also operates an alert system, Williamsburg Alerts. The program communicates information about severe weather and evacuations to city residents via phone calls, text messages and emails. To sign up for alerts, visit williamsburgva.gov/services/communications/enotification-sign-up.
Schools in the Area
With the impending hurricane, schools around the area have begun planning what they will do when the storm hits our area.
Eileen Cox, Williamsburg-James City County spokeswoman, said the county is still seeing how the situation progresses
“Right now we are in the watching and information gather stage,” Cox said. “Right now its just a matter of watching the forecast.”
Cox said the school district will be looking at how city and county leaders to see how they manage the emergency situation. She said schools may be used as shelter for community members during the storm.
York County Schools posted on Monday at 7 p.m. that all schools and division offices would be closed until further notice. This was due to the fact many faculty and students lived in madetory evacuation area zone A.
According to their website, the district conferred with the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office, York County Fire and Life Safety Department and neighboring school divisions before making a decision on whether to close or delay school.
Any future decisions concerning our schools will be communicated to parents and staff through email, text alert, call out, on Twitter at @ycsd, on Facebook at facebook.com/yorkcountyschoolsva, and on the district’s website, yorkcountyschools.org.
Willam and Mary
Currently, the College of William and Mary have no solid plans yet for Florence according to an email sent out to students at 2:21 p.m. on Monday.
The college suggested students make themselves aware of William and Mary’s safety procedures.
In the case of an evacuation, students are more or less on their own. William and Mary requires students who live on campus to submit an emergency evacuation plan, in case the college ever needs to evacuate its residence halls.
According to the college’s website, plans must include:
- Two addresses, preferably in other cities and within a reasonable driving distance of Williamsburg, where students can go
- How they will get to their destination
Students are also encouraged to think about whether they can or are will to help transport and/or house another student as well
In the case of an emergency, William and Mary provides an emergency alert system to help keep students stay informed. Students and faculty are altered through this system through phone numbers and emails registered with the college.
Those at the college can also stay up to date on emergency situations through its Facebook page, facebook.com/wmnews, and Twitter, @wmnews. Updates will also be posted on the college’s website wm.edu.
This story will be updated as more information is made available.
Roberts can be reached at 757-604-1329 or on Twitter @SPRobertsJr.