Tropical Storm Hanna is forecast to hit Virginia Saturday, bringing with it the possibilities of flash flooding and tornadoes along coastal areas as well as in southeastern and central Virginia. Residents should make essential preparations now.
“We’re going to get high winds and a lot of rain when Hanna reaches Virginia,” says Michael Cline, state coordinator for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. “The track looks similar to Hurricane Floyd in 1999. People should prepare now for possible power outages, tornadoes and flash floods.”
There are three simple, low-cost steps that Virginians can take to prepare:
- Make an emergency supply kit. A kit includes, among other things, essential items to last at least three days, such as a battery-powered radio and extra batteries, food and water, flashlights, a first aid kit and medications.
- Create a family communications plan. Discuss what your family would do during an actual emergency. Decide on a meeting place if your family cannot return home; designate an out-of-town friend or relative as a point-of-contact; and plan for the specific needs of your household, such as an evacuation shelter for pets or transportation for medical equipment.
- Listen for the most local, up-to-date information from emergency officials. Although mass evacuations do not appear to be necessary, local officials may decide some area evacuations are necessary. Listen to your local media and emergency officials for information and instructions.
In addition, residents need to know what to do during flash floods and tornadoes, which can develop with little or no warning.
- Be alert to signs of flooding and be ready to evacuate at a moment's notice.
- Know the difference between a flash flood watch and warning:
A flash flood WATCH means flooding is possible in your area.
A flash flood WARNING means a flood is already occurring or will occur very soon in your area. Move to higher ground away from rivers, streams, creeks and storm drains. Residents in low-lying areas near streams and rivers should evacuate immediately. You might only have a few minutes to escape.
- Do not drive across water-covered roads. Turn around and find another route.
- If your car stalls in rapidly rising waters, abandon it immediately and climb to higher ground.
- Know the difference between a tornado watch and warning:
A tornado WATCH means weather conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.
A tornado WARNING means a tornado has actually been sighted. Warnings are issued for individual counties and include the tornado's location, direction and speed. If you are in or near its path, seek shelter immediately. Don't attempt to look for the tornado. Many Virginia tornadoes are obscured by rain and may not be visible at all or until it is too late to take cover.
- Know the names of the counties, cities and towns near you. It will be easier to track the tornado's direction if you are familiar with the geography of your area.
- Find appropriate shelter and protect yourself while there. The best place to be during a tornado is an interior, windowless room on the lowest level of a sturdy building. If you are outside, in your automobile or in a mobile home, seek shelter in a sturdy building. If none is available, lie down flat in a ditch or depression and cover your head with your arms. Mobile homes are extremely unsafe during tornadoes.