Gov. McAuliffe announces changes to hurricane plan

HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY/AP) – Governor Terry McAuliffe was at Fort Monroe Thursday to talk about improvements to Virginia’s hurricane preparedness plan, including an adjustment to the evacuation decision-making timeline. This is the height of the hurricane season for the Hampton Roads area.

The hurricane in-season review was led by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).

McAuliffe announced the revised hurricane evacuation timeline will include the following key actions prior to the onset of tropical storm force winds (39-73 mph):

  • 96 hours – Initiate deployment of state resources for evacuation activities
  • 72 hours – Recommend first call by the governor with chief local elected officials concerning evacuation plans and activities (previously occurred at the -48 hour mark)
  • 48 hours – Recommend start of mandatory evacuation for a Category 3 hurricane (previously occurred at the -38 hours mark)

“While this change may provide up to an additional 12 hours for deciding evacuation issues, it depends on a clearly defined storm track and intensity analysis several days before landfall,” said Virginia Department of Emergency Management State Coordinator Jeff Stern. “Last July, Hurricane Arthur rapidly increased from a tropical storm to a Category 2 hurricane only 14 hours prior to landfall in North Carolina, which would have left little time to evacuate a large coastal population like Hampton Roads prior to the storm’s arrival if one had been needed.”

Over the next two years, state officials also plan to develop hurricane evacuation zones for the Hampton Roads area. To aid with evacuations, the plan calls for providing incentives for gas stations to add generators to their facilities in case they lose power. The in-season review determined a mass evacuation of Hampton Roads may not be necessary if the risk is communicated to the public early enough to get them to a safe location.

Among other things, the revised plan also calls for finding more adequate hurricane shelters in the Hampton Roads region. Currently, only eight shelters in the region can withstand a Category 2 hurricane.

Click here to read a full copy of the in-season hurricane review report.

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