Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell ordered that state offices in coastal areas close at 3 p.m., and is encouraging other employers to do the same to prepare for Hurricane Irene, which is expected to bring powerful winds and flooding to the state this weekend.
The affected areas are the cities of Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Hampton, Newport News, Suffolk, Chincoteague, Chesapeake, Portsmouth and Poquoson and the 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 in a statement. “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 spoke to President Obama and other East Coast governors Friday morning about preparations for Hurricane Irene, which is expected to bring powerful winds and flooding to the state this weekend. Also on the phone were Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate and select mayors.
McDonnell will hold a news conference at 1 p.m. in Richmond to brief reporters on how the state is preparing for what he called a “very dangerous” storm.
Afterwards, he will visit emergency operations centers in Hampton, Virginia Beach and Norfolk.
McDonnell on Thursday declared a state of emergency and authorized localities to issue mandatory evacuations if necessary. So far, residents of low-lying areas of Virginia Beach and Norfolk are being told to leave their homes.