Peninsula residents carry on despite threat of Hurricane Arthur

HAMPTON — As the first hurricane of the season swept up the coast Thursday, many residents on the Peninsula went about their normal summer activities.

While Hurricane Arthur is one of the earliest hurricanes to emerge in recent years, residents seemed unfazed by the threat, with only 1 to 3 inches of rainfall and winds of less than 30 mph forecast for the area.

There were no traces of residents boarding up homes near Buckroe Beach Thursday evening. Instead, children were building sandcastles and doing cartwheels as the wind gently blew. Several people were fishing on the beach's pier. Ronald Gillespie, of Newport News, was sitting on the boardwalk in a lawn chair watching the Chesapeake Bay.

"The hurricane is gonna hit on the Outer Banks," Gillespie said. "I'm sitting here and I don't see no rainstorm, no nothing and I'm cool with that. … I don't feel it in the air."

Hurricane Arthur is occurring a week earlier than the 43-year-average, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Hurricane season officially started June 1. NOAA has forecast slightly fewer storms and hurricanes than normal this year: eight to 13 named storms, three to six of which will build into hurricanes, including one or two major ones.

Brandon and Meghan Adams, of Newport News, were fishing along the Buckroe Beach pier with their 6-month-old son. They were not surprised a hurricane has emerged so early in the season.

"After such a cold winter we thought maybe it would be a hot summer, and it seems like the storms did start earlier than usual. … It warmed up and I just assumed storms weren't far behind," Brandon Adams said.

Kermit Golden, of Hampton, was fishing with his son on the pier at Buckroe. Golden said he thought a hurricane this soon in the season could mean there will be more than in recent years.

"It's going to be some more — it's just, is it going to hit us or not?" Golden said.

On the transportation front, Ron Watrous, a Virginia Department of Transportation spokesman, said crews were inspecting and cleaning storm water drain systems as early as Monday, and testing the tide and hurricane gates. VDOT also positioned response gear, equipment and generators and ensured that it has fuel and tree removal services on alert throughout the Hampton Roads District.

VDOT has also deployed additional emergency supplies — chain saws, water pumps, signs and other response gear — to remote locations for access, Watrous said. VDOT had previously suspended road and bridge construction projects for the holiday weekend, beginning Thursday, to ensure lanes are open and motorists do not encounter project-related delays, detours or congestion.

By Thursday afternoon there were only a handful of owners who docked their boats at Bluewater Yachting Center in Hampton ahead of Hurricane Arthur. Five boats were docked specifically because of the hurricane threat, all moved from Rudee Inlet in Virginia Beach, said Earle Hall, vice president of Bluewater.

"Tidewater is hanging their hat on this forecast," Hall said. "I tell you, if that thing doesn't go the way they say it's gonna go, we're all gonna be pretty embarrassed. Normally we would be working around the clock here."

Hall said most boaters elected to stay in the water. At Bluewater, the vessels are parked on land when severe weather is expected. On Thursday, the boats were simply docked.

"We have faith in their forecast, and they're calling for 1 to 3 feet above normal high tide, and we can handle 1 to 3 feet with no problem," Hall said.

Staff Writers Cathy Grimes and Tamara Dietrich contributed to this report. Speed can be reached by phone 757-247-4778.

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