Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) urged residents Sunday to know where their local shelters are, stay off the roads and to help their neighbors as Hurricane Sandy began bearing down on the Hampton Roads area.

McDonnell said that the beach at Virginia Beach was already covered in water.

“This is going to be a long haul,” the governor said. “We will no doubt have rain and high winds through Tuesday, and in Northern Virginia significant wind and rains into Wednesday. People are going to have to be patient.”

The governor said that that more than 400 National Guard troops had been mobilized and up to 700 would be by the storm’s crest. About 30 shelters have been opened across the state for those who have lost power, he said.

Dominion Virginia Power said that 20,000 people had lost power over the weekend in the Hampton Roads area, but that 17,000 have already been restored. The company said it has 2,000 extra workers from other states ready to deploy as power outages rise during the storm.

McDonnell urged caution. He said that Sandy “is unlike any storm I’ve seen in 20 years in office. It’s a very unique weather event this late in the season for the people of Virginia.”

“It’s going to get a lot worse than it is right now,” he said. “Particularly in northern Virginia where the big impacts are going to be.”