As hurricane season ends, Virginia not spared from impacts

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: December 12, 2018 | 12:30 p.m. 

VIRGINIA – November 30 marked the end of the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season and the end of a season where Virginia saw its fair share of tropical activity that resulted in significant damage and a number of fatalities left in its wake.

Over the course of the 2018 season, a total of 16 depressions spun up in the Atlantic Ocean basin, with 15 of those strengthening into tropical storms and eight becoming hurricanes. 

Only two hurricanes would strengthen into major hurricanes, which are storms measuring Category 3 or stronger on the Saffir-Simpson Scale, capable of maximum sustained winds from as low as 111 miles per hour to as high as over 157 miles per hour, considered a Category 5 storm, Hurricanes Florence and Michael, both of which left lasting effects across the Gulf and Southeastern Coast.

Hurricane Florence made landfall near the North and South Carolina border along the Atlantic coast in mid-September, dropping a tremendous amount of rain across several states including farther inland into parts of Tennessee, Kentucky, and West Virginia before moving offshore. 

In the days leading up to the storm’s eventual landfall, the Virginia coastline was in many model runs of the storm’s track before the tropical system took a more western track toward the Carolina coast. Even though the storm didn’t directly hit the Commonwealth, its impacts were felt from the mountains to the coast.

According to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, Florence caused nearly $50 million in damages across the Commonwealth. In addition, as a result of the storm, nearly a quarter of a million coastal residents in the state were ordered to evacuate as Florence’s track put them at risk of devastating storm surge and wind impacts.

The storm also spun up a series of tornadoes on September 16 as Florence’s remnants moved through Central Virginia, with one of those tornadoes striking in a heavily populated portion of Chesterfield County in the middle of the day, damaging a number of homes and businesses and killing one person inside a flooring warehouse.

The remnants of Hurricane Florence produced a number of tornadoes across the Commonwealth in September, with one of those moving through Chesterfield, destroying a flooring store, killing one and injuring several others. (Chesterfield County)

Along with the impacts locally, the state also sent resources down to North Carolina, which was heavily impacted by Florence, with parts of the state receiving over a foot of rain as the hurricane weakened and moved over the area. VDEM reports over two dozen registered nurses were dispatched to shelters in NC, along with high water mobility support and incident management teams.Prince George Electric Cooperative also sent crews down to NC to help with power restoration efforts, venturing to some of the hardest hit areas of the state to help get the lights back on for fellow cooperative entities.

Nearly three months after the storm, nearly three dozen localities are now eligible for Hurricane Florence public assistance. 

Less than a month after Florence moved across the Southeastern Seaboard, another storm, Michael set its sights on the U.S. Gulf Coast, rapidly intensifying before making landfall on October 10 as a deadly Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 155 miles per hour. 

Michael would not spare the Commonwealth from its impacts as its weakened form tracked across the southern reaches of Virginia, bringing with it a deluge of rain, damaging winds, along with tornadoes.

According to state emergency officials, the number of power outages in Virginia during Florence was dwarfed by those of Michael, with over 520,000 people being left in the dark by the storm. Florence only saw 5,100 outages, VDEM reports. 

Michael’s damage estimates also surpassed those of Florence, with the price tag of the October hurricane sitting at approximately $65.3 million. 

The rain also presented problems to many communities, as Michael’s track brought nearly a foot of rain to some counties and cities, resulting in flooding in low-lying areas or those close to river banks. According to VDEM, over nine inches of rain was reported in Middlesex County, while parts of Old Towne Petersburg experienced the effects of being downstream from the heavy rains of Michael as flooding occurred during the weekend after the storm. 

The greatest toll, the human toll, was significant this hurricane season as VDEM reports ten deaths in the Commonwealth were caused by tropical systems, citing data from the state medical examiner’s office.

Downed trees and power lines from both Florence and Michael were a common result of the storm’s impact on Virginia and much of the southern East Coast after a wet spring and summer season. (New Bern, NC Police)

“While Virginia continues to coordinate recovery resources for individuals, households, businesses, organizations and communities, the Commonwealth is grateful that Virginia was spared from the catastrophic hurricane devastation produced elsewhere in the country this season,” officials with VDEM said last week.

“Unfortunately many citizens in neighboring states were not spared from historic impacts this season, and they are now on a long and challenging road to recovery,” they continued. “Virginia deployed resources and safety personnel to North Carolina and South Carolina due to the historic impacts from Hurricane Florence, and Florida as a result of Hurricane Michael, another historic storm. VDEM and the entire Commonwealth are thankful to Virginia’s emergency managers and public safety personnel for their efforts and dedication this hurricane season both in Virginia and during deployments to assist other states.”

The total damage cost from this hurricane season is expected to top $30 billion. As this season comes to an end, VDEM urges Virginians to be prepared for the next season, which starts June 1, 2019.

– Visit DCR.virginia.gov/vfris to learn your flood risk for your home and business.

– Contact an insurance agent or call the National Flood Insurance Program at 888.379.9531 or visit Floodsmart.gov to find an agent to review and purchase a flood insurance policy.

– Prior to the start of the 2018 season, many regions of the Commonwealth had already experienced significant coastal, river and inland flooding putting even more Virginians at risk for flooding from a hurricane. Remember, it takes 30 days for a flood insurance policy to take effect, so the time to prepare for spring flooding and 2019  season is now.

– Coastal Virginians should learn their evacuation zone now and make a plan to prepare their home and business at KnowYourZoneVA.org.

– All Virginians should take simple steps to prepare for a hurricane by storing critical documentation in a safe place, documenting the condition of their property before damages occur using their cameras and smartphones, purchasing emergency preparedness items and by making a family communication plan. Visit VAemergency.gov/hurricanes to learn more.

“VDEM encourages you to work with, and volunteer for, charitable organizations in your community to make them even stronger before disaster strikes, and by contacting your local government and your local office of emergency management to access preparedness resources and information,” the agency closed.

Copyright 2018 by Womack Publishing
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