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Posted at 10:44 AM ET, 08/26/2011

Live updates from Hurricane #Irene

Please follow this link for Friday’s live updates.

All our previous news still exists after the jump....

Click on the links below to jump to a specific section of this post.

Get the latest updates from around the region.
Get tips on preparing for the hurricane
Find out what preparations to take in the District.
Get more information on the state of emergency declaration in Maryland and evacuations.
Get more information on the state of emergency declaration in Virginia and evacuations.
Check out projected weather forecasts for your area
Transportation restrictions, delays and cancelations

UPDATE 11:30 a.m.

Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) has ordered that state offices along in coastal areas to close at 3 p.m., and is encouraging other employers to do the same.

The affected areas are the cities of Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Hampton, Newport News, Suffolk, Chincoteague, Chesapeake, Portsmouth and Poquoson and counties of Isle of Wight, Lancaster, York, Gloucester, Middlesex, Matthews, James City, New Kent, Northampton, Northumberland, Richmond and Accomack.

“Citizens, including state employees, should be taking seriously the need to prepare for this significant storm and to ready their families, homes and communities for the possible evacuation and for the impacts of Hurricane Irene,” McDonnell said. “I am sending non-essential state employees home to prepare for the hurricane and to relieve congestion to aid in local evacuations, and I challenge other employers in those affected areas to release non-essential employees to enable them to prepare for Hurricane Irene as well.”

McDonnell (R) was on a conference call with President Obama, Secrecretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and FEMA Admistrator Craig Fugate, and other East Coast governors to talk about preparations for Hurricane Irene, which is expected to bring powerful winds and flooding to the state this weekend.

McDonnell will hold a news conference at 1 p.m. Afterwards, he will visit emergency operations centers in Hampton, Virginia Beach and Norfolk.

UPDATE 11:27 a.m.

Pepco robocalls warn customers of ‘likely power outages’ as Hurricane Irene strikes over the weekend.

UPDATE 10:44 a.m.

At a morning briefing, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) said residents should stock up on food and water and be prepared for extended power outages.

“This is the real deal,” O’Malley said. “This is a big, deadly and dangerous storm.”

Richard Muth, director of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, said the storm should start impacting the state around 6 p.m. Saturday and last 20 to 24 hours.

He said the state is expecting 4 to 6 inches of rain, considerably less than previously thought. Still, the state is requesting two swift-water rescue teams from other states.

UPDATE 10:28 a.m.

JetBlue becomes the first major airline to cancel flights ahead of Hurricane Irene’s landfall.

UPDATE 10:07 a.m.

The city of Hampton has ordered residents in low-lying areas to leave because of Hurricane Irene, AP reports. Residents who stay have been warned that the city will not send rescue teams into areas covered by Friday’s mandatory evacuation order.

UPDATE (9:55 a.m.)

The District Department of Public Works will distribute free sandbags — up to five per household — to city residents at New Jersey Avenue and K Street SE from noon to midnight today and from 8 a.m. to midnight Saturday as Hurricane Irene advances toward the area.

UPDATE (9:37 a.m.)

How the federal government is responding

UPDATE (8:30 a.m.):

With Irene approaching, the Washington National Cathedral announced it would remain closed through at least Sunday, September 4. Crews are also setting up a secure perimeter around the church, which suffered significant damage in Tuesday’s earthquake.

UPDATE (7:49 a.m.): Fairfax County's emergency management coordinator will host an online chat for residents who have questions about preparing for Hurricane Irene or other natural disasters.

Dave McKernan, with the county's Office of Emergency Management will host the Internet chat today from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Residents may also submit questions in advance.

Hurricanes and earthquakes will be among the chat's topics.

Residents wishing to view the chat or submit a question can go to http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/askfairfax. --Associated Press

UPDATE (6:36 a.m.): The National Weather Service has upgraded the Tropical Storm Watch issued for much of the Metro region to a Tropcial Storm Warning. See Capital Weather Gang for full details.

UPDATE (6:18 a.m.): Pepco issued a press release Thursday saying customers should review emergency plans because they could face “extended power outages.”

Pepco’s line crews will work extended hours and the utility’s Call Center will provide 24-hour coverage beginning today.

Dominion Power said it is readying repair crews and prepping emergency equipment ahead of the storm.

BGE said it is “pre-mobilizing” several hundred linemen from outside the utility’s service area to help restore power once the hurricane hits.

UPDATE (1:08 a.m.): D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s office announced early Friday that a rally and march scheduled for Saturday has been called off because of Hurricane Irene.

The alert, delivered shortly after midnight, followed the announcement Thursday night that Sunday’s dedication of the new Martin Luther King Memorial has been postponed until September or October.

The Full Democracy and Freedom rally was an effort by DC Vote and Mayor Gray to put a spotlight on D.C. voting rights. That group was then planning to join a march for “jobs and justice” sponsored by the National Action Network.

UPDATE (10:16 p.m.): We’ve got a roundup of buildings, sites and schools that will be closed for the next few days, either because of the earthquake or the hurricane. Get the list here.

UPDATE (10:06 p.m.): In Alexandria, officials planned to load trailer trucks with sandbags at three locations for a distribution beginning Friday at 11 a.m.:

• The intersection of King and Lee streets in Old Town.

• George Washington Middle School, 1005 Mount Vernon Ave.

• Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology, 3600 Commonwealth Ave.

Click here for more information.

UPDATE (9:18 p.m.): New York City officials say they’re preparing for the total shutdown of the nation’s largest mass transit system.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg says officials expect to shut down the city’s entire transit system at some point Saturday afternoon ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Irene, which is now forecasted to strike eastern Queens. He says service likely won’t be available again until sometime Monday or perhaps later.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Jay Walder says that the system can’t be safely operated with sustained winds of 39 mph or more. He says it will take at least eight hours to move all MTA +equipment from low-lying storage areas and secure trains in protected areas, including in the system’s underground tunnels.

Bloomberg is urging residents of the city’s low-lying areas to begin evacuating tomorrow. He’ll decide whether to issue a formal evacuation order by 8 a.m. —Associated Press

UPDATE (8:48 p.m.): : President Obama declare a national emergency in North Carolina ahead of Hurricane Irene. —Associated Press. Click here to read this article.

UPDATE (8:25 p.m.): Virginia Beach officials have ordered a mandatory evacuation for a section of the city late Thursday. The evacuation for Sandbridge is effective at noon Friday. —Associated Press. Read the rest of this article here.

UPDATE (8:20 p.m.): In Major League Soccer, D.C. United moved Saturday’s start time against Portland from 7:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. at RFK Stadium. —Associated Press. Read the rest of this article here.

UPDATE (8:18 p.m.): The U.S. Navy has ordered ships at its largest East Coast hub in Norfolk, Va. to head out to safer waters to protect them from Hurricane Irene, which is approaching the East Coast. — Associated Press. Read the rest of this article here.

UPDATE (8:00 p.m.): Some residents in Laurel, Md. residents received robocalls ordering evacuation ahead of Hurricane Irene — but police in the city say there are no evacuations and they didn’t make the calls.

Residents of two apartment complexes received the calls Thursday night telling them to leave the area, said Public Information Officer Jim Collins.

“The call does sound official and it sounds like a voice of authority, but it wasn’t us,” he said. “As of now, we are not planning to evacuate.”

Collins said police are investigating whether lines could have gotten crossed with evacuating cities on the east coast, such as Ocean City. Island residents were ordered to leave earlier today.

Collins said that if there were to be an evacuation, Laurel does have the ability to set up phone call alerts to inform residents.

UPDATE (7:48 p.m.): Sunday’s Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial dedication ceremony in D.C. has been postponed in anticipation of the hurricane. Click here for more information.

UPDATE (7:26 p.m.) Rough ocean from Hurricane Irene causes 8 injuries, possible drowning in Fla. --Associated Press

UPDATE (7:09 p.m.): The Manassas City Council declared a local emergency during a special meeting Thursday. City officials said they have also drained Lake Manassas down a bit in preparation for any flooding.

UPDATE (6:16 p.m.):The District Department of Public Works will distribute free sandbags — up to five per household — to city residents as Hurricane Irene advances toward the area.

UPDATE (5:36 p.m.) Ocean City residents have been ordered to evacuate , and the mayor has declared a state of emergency as Hurricane Irene approaches.

Stay informed

Get alerts from PostLocal, even if the power goes out. Text LOCAL to 98999. You can also get weather alerts by texting WEATHER to 98999. Get updates from Capital Weather Gang on your mobile devices by going to http://wpo.st/29s3 .

Track the storm at http://wapo.st/hurricanetrax.

INTERACTIVE TROPICAL TRACKING MAP

Forecast tracks are the latest from the National Hurricane Center. Pan, zoom, and click on points along the storm's projected track for intensity forecasts.
Click on an area on the map for watch, warning and advisory info.

HURRICANE PREPARATION TIPS

1. Develop a family plan

— The NHC suggests locating a safe room or area for each hurricane hazard, including storm surge, flooding and wind, and planning an escape route and meeting place in case you must evacuate. (Remember to include pets in this plan.)

— Post emergency telephone numbers by your phones and make sure your children know how and when to call 911.

2. Create a disaster supply kit

Your supply kit should include:

— Water (at least one gallon daily per person for three to seven days, according to the NHC);

— Non-perishable packaged or canned foods

— Non-electric can opener and disposable plates and utensils

— Blankets and pillows

— Clothing, including rain gear and sturdy shoes

— First aid kit and prescription medications

— Flashlight, radio and batteries

— Fully charged cell phone with an extra battery

— Cash and credit cards

— Important documents such as Social Security cards, insurance, and medical records in a watertight plastic bag

— Tools

— Keys

— Special items for infants, the elderly and pets.

3. Secure your home

The NHC advises protecting your home from wind and windstrewn debris by reinforcing five areas: the roof, straps, shutters, doors and garage.

Also note that flood damage is often not covered by homeowners insurance.

4. Determine your vulnerability

There are resources online — including maps and assessment tools — to help determine how vulnerable you are to hurricane and tropical storm hazards.

For more on hurricane preparedness, click here.



Hurricane Irene approaches the Outer Banks. 11 a.m. Friday (NOAA/National Hurricane Center)

EVACUATIONS/ PREPARATIONS

The District

UPDATE (6:16 p.m.):

The District Department of Public Works will distribute free sandbags — up to five per household — to city residents as Hurricane Irene advances toward the area.

PREVIOUSLY:

The District government is urging property and business owners to secure "potential projectiles" in advance of possible effects from Hurricane Irene.

In a statement, the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs said tropical storm or hurricane conditions, including heavy rain and strong winds, were possible later in the weekend. To prepare, the agency is asking that property owners bring outdoor items, such as lawn furniture and toys, indoors. The agency is also urging construction site managers to inspect the property for unstable scaffolding, cranes and equipment. 

“Property owners must consider the safety of their buildings and construction sites,” the agency said. “Structures that have been subject to deferred maintenance or in delicate conditions could be at greater risk.”

The D.C. Department of Homeland Security has also been urging residents to make basic storm preparations, as they would for a snowstorm. But District officials caution that its too early to say whether there will be hazardous conditions in the city. 

District Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) has made no formal declaration of emergency, but his spokeswoman said the mayor was receiving regular briefings on the storm's potential path and impact.

Maryland

Ocean City residents have been ordered to evacuate , and the mayor has declared a state of emergency as Hurricane Irene approaches.

Residents will be asked to leave starting at midnight tonight, at which point there will be no access to the island for non-emergency personnel. However, residents and business owners already in the city will have an opportunity to secure their properties until 5 p.m. Friday.

At a late-afternoon news conference, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) urged Marylanders in low-lying coastal flood zones to leave their homes this weekend and “stay with someone who loves them” as a “monster hurricane” approaches.

Read more about this state of emergency and what it entails.

For more information: The Ocean City Government Cable Access Channel 4, the Ocean City Web site www.ocmdemergency.com, recorded emergency management line, 410-723-6666 and Ocean City advisory radio station 1670 AM will remain operational for further advisories.

Virginia

UPDATE 10:07 a.m.

The city of Hampton has ordered residents in low-lying areas to leave because of Hurricane Irene, AP reports. Residents who stay have been warned that the city will not send rescue teams into areas covered by Friday’s mandatory evacuation order.

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) on Thursday declared a state of emergency in Virginia in preparation for Hurricane Irene, which is anticipated to bring wind and rain to parts of the state this weekend.

State officials said Virginia may see flooding from both rain and storm surges in the eastern part of the state. Winds could reach hurricane strength in Hampton Roads, though other areas further inland could see tropical-force winds.

Eastern Virginia residents who live in low-lying areas should be ready to evacuate ahead of the storm, according to McDonnell’s office. The state will not reverse lanes on I-64.

Read more on what is included in the state of emergency declaration and see recommendations for residents.

The Manassas City Council declared a local emergency during a special meeting Thursday. City officials said they have also drained Lake Manassas down a bit in preparation for any flooding.

For more information: For general information about the storm, dial 211 and for information about preparing for the hurricane, visit www.vaemergency.gov.

PROJECTED FORECASTS

The National Hurricane Center has issued a tropical storm watch for the Chesapeake Bay from Smith Point northward and the Tidal Potomac, including Washington, D.C.

The National Weather Service in Sterling has extended the tropical storm watch to cover much of the immediate D.C. metro region but it does not include the far western suburbs of Frederick, Loudoun and Fauquier counties.

Here is an overview of predicted weather condititons, subject to change. For more information, visit the Capital Weather Gang blog.

Loudoun/Frederick/Fauquier counties and points west: Chance of showers Saturday developing mainly Saturday afternoon. Possible brief periods of heavy showers and gusty winds (up to 20 to 30 mph) Saturday night, especially after midnight. Rain ends Sunday morning. Rainfall potential: trace to half an inch.

Fairfax, Montgomery, Prince William, Stafford and Howard counties and the District : Showers likely developing Saturday midday to afternoon. Periods of rain, possibly heavy Saturday night, mainly after 8 p.m. Winds increase to 20-40 mph with possible 50 mph gusts. Rain ends by late Sunday morning. Rainfall potential: 0.5-2”, possibly up to 4” in some locations. Minor to moderate flooding possible in tidal Potomac, especially north facing shores.

Prince George’s, Charles, Calvert, Anne Arundel and St. Mary’s county : Showers developing Saturday late morning to midday becoming heavy south to north late in the afternoon and evening. Heavy rain squalls at night, possible flooding. Winds increasing as high as 30-60 mph - strongest near the Bay, possible power outages. Rain ends by midday Sunday. Rainfall totals 2-6” - highest amounts near the Bay. Moderate to major tidal flooding possible, especially north facing shores.

Virginia tidewater and Delmarva Peninsula

Strong tropical storm or hurricane conditions likely. Rain developing Saturday morning and becoming heavy during the afternoon. Heavy rain and damaging winds Saturday night. Winds increasing to 40-70 mph, with gusts as high as 90-100 mph on the ocean with widespread power outages. Extremely dangerous storm surge possible for the beaches of up 4-8 feet, causing extensive flooding. Rain ends Sunday morning. Rainfall totals of 6-10” possible - causing inland flooding, isolated higher amounts.

TRANSPORTATION

Metro:

More than 2,000 sand bags are being placed at some Metro stations to prevent water from cascading down the escalators and into the stations.

The stations that have sandbags being placed at them include: Cleveland Park, King Street, Southern Avenue, Navy Yard, Federal Triangle, Foggy Bottom, Largo Town Center and Stadium-Armory. They’ve had issues with flooding previously, officials said.

Metro crews will check drains in advance of the storm and monitor them throughout the weekend. Chain saws are being put on certain vehicles for use if there are downed trees.

The agency is also scheduling additional personnel to work throughout the weekend.

Metro also offered some tips for traveling in storms:

• Metro buses and MetroAccess, the door-to-door service for those with disabilities, will detour around downed trees and flooded streets, if necessary, so allow for additional travel time.

• Use caution when on wet surfaces such as platforms and escalators.

• Do not carry open umbrellas in the rail system.

• Customers should stand back from platform edges or curbs, especially given the likelihood of high winds during the storm.

• Passengers riding Metro buses may not get reliable results from the NextBus system, which monitors when the next bus will arrive, because of extreme road conditions.

For more on metro's plans for the storm, click here.

Motorists:

Motorists should drive with caution, especially in areas that are prone to flooding. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency:
• Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars and may cause you to lose control or stall.
• A foot of water will float many vehicles.
• Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles — even SUVs and pickups.

Click here for resources on where to report transportation issues.

Airlines:

Started issuing travel waivers allowing flyers to change their travel plans that involve the East Coast without penalty.

JetBlue cancels 882 flights from tomorrow through Aug. 29.

Delta Air Lines, for example, will allow passengers transiting through airports in the Mid-Atlantic and some portions of the Northeast over the next four days to make changes for free or receive refunds if their flights are canceled or “significantly delayed.

American Airlines followed suit, allowing customers in certain cities who are traveling from today through Tuesday to change their flights without a fee.

Southwest Airlines, which controls about 32 percent of flights in the region through its recent merger with AirTran, also began waiving fees for flights through certain airports, including Baltimore and Dulles airports.

More information on air travel restrictions and cancelations here.

Trains:

Amtrak has canceled some train service for Friday, Saturday and Sunday south of Washington due to Hurricane Irene.

These include:

Originating Friday, Saturday and Sunday

• The Auto Train, Trains 52 and 53, which operate between Sanford, Fla., and Lorton, Va.

• Silver Star Trains 91 and 92, which operate from New York to Tampa to Miami. The service will operate between Jacksonsville and Miami.

• Silver Meteor Trains 97 and 98, which operate between New York and Miami.

• Palmetto Train 89, which operates between New York and Savannah.

Originating Saturday and Sunday

• Carolinian Trains 79 and 80, which operate between New York and Cary, N.C.

• Palmetto Train 90, which operates between New York and Savannah.

More information on train delays and cancelations here.

By Lauren Abdel-Razzaq, and  |  10:44 AM ET, 08/26/2011

 
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