VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Gov. Terry McAuliffe held a hurricane preparedness briefing in Virginia Beach Tuesday.
During the briefing at Camp Pendleton Headquarters, McAuliffe said he had an exercise with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management back in May about hurricane preparedness. From that discussion, he said he had some major concerns about the area’s ability to evacuate in the event of a major storm.
Tuesday, he sat down with local emergency personnel, mayors and state agencies to get their opinions on ways to improve Hampton Roads’ readiness.
Click here for the 10 On Your Side Hurricane Ready Guide.
There was a lot of discussion about which roadways could handle large volumes of people in the event of an evacuation. With Tropical Storm Arthur possibly headed this way, McAuliffe said people can rest assured the state is ready to respond.
“A lot of preparations have been done, everybody has worked hard on this, VDEM is prepared,” McAuliffe said. “All of our emergency services, mobilizing the guard. We’re prepared. We’re prepared as any other state is. We put a lot of time into this. It’s really preparing ourselves for the next level.”
Hampton Roads has never had to evacuate for a major storm, but Governor McAuliffe said we should be prepared for that possibility. Right now he has concerns on whether the area can do that.
“We have to evacuate close to 900,000 Virginians, and then the idea that 500,000 folks from North Carolina would also need be evacuated, this is a top concern,” McAuliffe said.
Several local leaders said they were concerned about the timing of evacuations. Earlier evacuation notices is top concern for Chesapeake leaders, since a lot of residents from North Carolina travel through the city to get away from storms.
“If you wait too long, the people from Outer Banks are going to evacuate through Chesapeake, and you’re not going to be able to get out,” said Rob Braidwood, Deputy Coordinator for Emergency Management in Chesapeake.
Also a top concern is what routes people will take, if they have to evacuate. Several localities expressed concern about the I-64 lane reversal plan and suggested Route 460 as an evacuation route. A project that is still on hold.
“I’m all in for 460,” McAuliffe said. “Let’s be clear I did suspend what was being done because the 460 that had been worked on was never going to be completed. That was never going to be permanent. We wasted time and we wasted $300 million.”
But the Governor said he is working to make Route 460 a viable evacuation route for the future.
“We’re moving quickly. We’re looking at five different scenarios on Route 460,” McAuliffe said. “We will have one working with the Army Core of Engineers. It doesn’t do you any good to be talking about a road that would never be able to be permanent.”
After the roundtable, the Governor took an aerial tour of Hampton Roads to look at some areas of concern. He said he plans to take all the ideas from the round table discussion and come up with some short-term solutions by August 15.