Gov. Robert F. McDonnell urged Virginians on Friday to prepare immediately for Hurricane Irene, which he said for most people will be “the most significant weather event of their lifetime.”
“This is a dangerous storm,’’ McDonnell (R) said at a news conference in Richmond. “Everybody in the state, not just along the coast, needs to be prepared for an event that could cause them and their families significant hardship.”
McDonnell is asking President Obama to declare an emergency in Virginia even before the storm hits, which would allow for federal assistance. Virginia’s congressional delegation has signed a letter encouraging the declaration.
McDonnell said Virginians should prepare for Hurricane Irene on Friday by evacuating if necessary, stocking up on groceries and filling their car with gas. He said they should not wait until Saturday when bridges and tunnels would be closed in Hampton Roads and businesses would not be open across the state.
“It is very important that people heed this warning and do it now,’’ he said. “Tomorrow will be too late.”
McDonnell called Irene a “very dangerous”storm that will probably be worse than Hurricane Isabel, which devastated Virginia in 2003, causing deaths and widespread power outages.
State officials expect a category 2 hurricane, which could leave people across the state without power for days, storm surges of up to six feet along the coast and more than 1 million people feeling the affects of hurricane-force winds in eastern and southeastern Virginia. The storm may strengthen to a category 3 hurricane before landfall.
“Even a slight change to could have disastrous effects for eastern Virginia,’’ he said.
More than 10 localities in Virginia have ordered residents and visitors to leave. McDonnell has called up 300 members of the Virginia National Guard and may call an additional 200.
“It is a significant event and it means significant flooding, storm surge, beach erosion, downed trees,’’ he said. “We are going to have power outages that are anticipated to be widespread and could last for days.”
See below for the full list of evacuations at this time in Virginia:
· Accomack County – Mandatory for certain areas.
· Chesapeake – Voluntary evacuation for low-lying areas and mobile homes.
· Chincoteague – Voluntary evacuation for residents. Mandatory evacuation for all non-residents.
· Gloucester County – Voluntary evacuation for low-lying areas and mobile homes.
· Hampton – Mandatory evacuation for category 1 surge and low-lying areas. Voluntary evacuation for entire city.
· James City County – Voluntary evacuation for low-lying areas.
· King and Queen County – Voluntary evacuations.
· Lancaster County – Voluntary evacuation for low-lying areas.
· Mathews County – Voluntary evacuations.
· Middlesex County – Mandatory evacuation in low-lying areas and mobile homes.
· Newport News – Mandatory evacuation for category 1 surge areas and flood prone sections of the city. Voluntary evacuation for low-lying areas.
· Norfolk – Mandatory evacuation for low-lying areas.
· Northampton County – Voluntary evacuation for all coastal and low-lying areas and mobile homes. Mandatory evacuation issued for three campgrounds and the YMCA camp.
· Northumberland County – Voluntary evacuation for low-lying areas and mobile homes.
· Poquoson – Voluntary evacuation.
· Portsmouth – Mandatory evacuation for low-lying areas.
· Richmond County – Voluntary evacuation for low-lying areas and mobile homes.
· Suffolk – Voluntary evacuation for low-lying areas and mobile homes.
· Virginia Beach – Mandatory for Sandbridge, Knotts Island. Voluntary evacuations for mobile homes and special-needs populations.
· Westmoreland County – Voluntary evacuation for low-lying areas and mobile homes.