As Hurricane Irene barrels its way northward, having smashed into the North Carolina coast on Saturday morning, residents on Virginia’s southeastern region are preparing for the storm’s onslaught.
The storm comes just a week after an unprecedented magnitude-5.8 earthquake struck central Virginia.
The Hampton Roads area on the southeastern coast of Virginia is expecting to be pummeled by Irene, with winds of up to 85 mph and the likelihood of heavy flooding.
Nick Fillo, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wakefield, told The Virginian-Pilot newspaper the Hampton Roads will endure hurricane-force winds by 4 p.m. Saturday, with the eye of the storm passing by the coast of Virginia Beach around 7 or 8 p.m.
Meanwhile, thousands of locals around Richmond further inland have already stocked up on emergency supplies ahead of the hurricane’s arrival, with long memories of previous tempests.
The main reason I am here is because we lived through [hurricane] Isabel, Amanda Keller told the Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper. Among other items, she purchased a back-up electric generator at a Lowe's home improvement store.
Isabel, which struck Virginia in September 2003, knocked out power for thousands of residents over several days.
For the six days we were without power last time, the first two days were fun, Keller said. After that, it was more like we were camping. This time, we just had to get a generator. It's a good investment.”
Another shopper at Lowe’s in Richmond, Ed Gotta of Henrico County, who also purchased a generator, told the newspaper: I've got to run my sump pump. It's better to be safe than sorry.
James Gathright of Henrico said he bought a generator as well as food and downspouts for his roof.
I think we were without power for a week or more, and we didn't have a generator then, he told the Times-Dispatch. I've wanted to buy one for some time. This gives me an excuse.
Lowe’s is also quickly selling out of flashlights, batteries, rakes and brooms.
I think more people are taking this storm seriously than before, and that's a good thing, the store manager told the paper.
Residents are also snapping up bottled water, canned goods, bread, cereals, pasta, and other essential food items at local groceries.
Right now I guess I'm expecting the worst, another shopper Judith Austin told the Times-Dispatch. I was here yesterday, and I bought water and water and more water.
Isabel was up to now one of the costliest natural disasters in Virginia history, but damages wrought by Irene could exceed it.
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell told reporters on Friday: The storm surges, the flooding and the winds will be broader in scope that what we experienced [with Isabel]. So those who lived through that eight years ago in Virginia, be prepared. It will likely be worse this time around.
He also cautioned that residents may face extended power outages and interruptions of water service.
Flooding may be pronounced in the low-lying areas of South Hampton Roads, including Norfolk, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach.
McDonnell also warned that water levels in Norfolk could reach to 9 feet above normal.
The city of Virginia Beach said it expects to see 10 inches of rain and a storm surge of 7.5 feet.
On the whole, about 200,000 Virginia residents are subject to mandatory evacuation orders, including 80,000 in Norfolk, 55,000 to 60,000 in Virginia Beach and 50,000 in Poquoson.