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Virginia Politics
Posted at 02:24 PM ET, 08/28/2011

McDonnell: Four deaths, 1 million without power as a result of Irene

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) said Sunday that two-thirds of Virginia residents were affected by Hurricane Irene, which killed four people in the state and has left more than a million without power.

“It’s been a far-reaching storm with impacts virtually all over the state,’’ McDonnell said at a news conference at the Emergency Operations Centers in Richmond. “We prepared for the worst but we fared better than we expected. There is still significant damage and loss of life.”

Four people died in Virginia as a result of Irene, including a fourth confirmed Sunday. A man in King William County was killed when a tree fell on him Saturday.

“Our hearts just go out to the people who have lost loved ones,’’ McDonnell said.

McDonnell said that about 1.1. million customers are without power in Virginia -- 1,003,450 who are Dominion customers and 94,000 who are customers of co-ops that serve Southside. The Richmond metropolitan area was largest hit with 370,000 without power, including three-quarters of the city of Richmond. Another 341,000 were without power in Hampton Roads, equal to about half of the region, and another 119,000 in Northern Virginia, about 12 percent of the region.

Dominion officials said Irene caused the second biggest outage in the provider’s history, second only to Hurricane Isabel in 2003. About 6,000 workers from various states are in Virginia and North Carolina to help restore power with top priority being given to hospitals, 911 centers, shelters and water and sewer plants.

“Power outages are the most significant impact of this storm,’’ McDonnell said. “They need to be patient. It’s going to be a matter of days -- or perhaps longer -- before power is fully restored.”

State emergency officials say all major bridges are now re-opened, including key bridges in Hampton Roads – the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel and the Midtown Tunnel.

About 240 roads are still closed throughout the state, including 45 primary roads, none in Northern Virginia. Most will be cleared by Monday, but not all, transportation officials said.

The Port of Hampton Roads is closed, but will be re-opened by Monday morning. Navy ships sent out to sea as a result of the storm will begin to return Monday and most will be back Wednesday or Thursday.

McDonnell said all mandatory curfews have been lifted, but for the second day in row he authorized localities to enforce curfews Sunday night. Several localities in Hampton Roads have already said they will, though tourists and residents are free to go back to the beach now.

“We want to tell our friends from around the country the beach is re-open,’’ McDonnell said.

McDonnell said the highest rainfall amount – 16 inches – was reported in Suffolk, South Hampton and Windsor, the strongest wind gusts were reported at 83 miles per hour in Matthew County, and largest storm surge was reported at more than seven feet in Hampton Roads. The rain has helped reduce smoke from the fire Great Dismal Swamp, which has been burning since Aug. 4.

At the peak, about 5,000 people were in 76 shelters. As on noon, 2,547 people were in 38 shelters.

McDonnell will tour Richmond and Charles City Sunday afternoon by helicopter and also walk through some neighborhoods. He will do the same Monday in Hampton Roads.

State emergency officials say localities will spend the next 72 hours assessing damage before reporting back to McDonnell, who will determine by the end of the week whether to ask President Obama for a federal disaster declaration.

By  |  02:24 PM ET, 08/28/2011

 
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