By Anna Madigan
Capital News Service
As Hurricane Dorian threatens Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam and other officials are urging residents especially along the coast to prepare emergency kits, plan evacuation routes and expect power outages.
The storm made landfall at Cape Hatteras on North Carolina’s Outer Banks at 9 a.m. today. Dorian is continuing along North Carolina and heading to Virginia as a Category 1 storm. By 10 a.m., at least 51,000 homes and businesses in Virginia were without power, according to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.
Jeff Caldwell, the department’s external affairs director, said the state has implemented new emergency preparedness plans to respond to Dorian.
“We have been working for many months to improve and review Virginia’s emergency response plans and the responsibility that each state agency has in responding to a natural or man-made disaster,” Caldwell said.
As the hurricane barrels towards Virginia, a tropical storm warning was issued for Norfolk and Virginia Beach.
If Dorian continues through Virginia as a Category 1 storm, more than 23,000 homes are at risk from storm surge, according to the Insurance Information Institute, an industry-funded research organization. The reconstruction of those homes could cost more than $6 billion.
The Virginia State Police, the Virginia Department of Transportation and other state agencies are bracing for the effects of Hurricane Dorian.
The Virginia Department of Health has worked with 35 local health districts to prepare for shelter support, food and water safety, said Bob Mauskapf, the agency’s director of emergency preparedness. The department also is staffing shelters in the Tidewater region with nurses and environmentalists.
The greatest concern about Dorian is how coastal flooding and wind damage could affect hospitals and other medical providers, Mauskapf said.
“As the storm makes its landfall or impacts the coast, we are mostly concerned on the impact of the health-care facilities losing power, possibility of evacuating some of the low-lying facilities … plus making sure folks who can get to the shelters to support the shelter population,” Mauskapf said.
Dominion Energy said Thursday that the electric utility also is prepared for Dorian’s impact in Southeastern Virginia and North Carolina.
Dominion officials warned that the slow-moving storm “could bring dangerous conditions and widespread outages, including high winds and flooding. We are urging customers to be prepared for a multi-day outage event.”
“In North Carolina and Virginia, more than 7,000 Dominion Energy employees and contract crew members are ready to support the restoration effort,” the company stated in a press release.
In advance of Dorian on Monday, Northam declared a state of emergency, which allowed state agencies to mobilize resources and to deploy personnel and equipment to assist in response and recovery efforts.
The governor on Thursday urged Virginians to make final preparations for the storm. He said coastal residents should listen to local officials for information on potential evacuations.
“Hurricane Dorian remains a powerful storm that has already caused loss of life and serious damage in the Bahamas, Florida, and the Carolinas,” Northam said. “Tropical storm force winds, storm surge, heavy rains, and flooding from this hurricane will impact much of eastern Virginia.”