Jefferson County continues preparations for Sandy

Jefferson County is expected to start seeing the beginning of Hurricane Sandy in their jurisdiction on Sunday night, according to the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va. The Weather Service has issued a High Wind Watch from late Sunday night through Tuesday evening, as well as a Flood Watch for that same time period. The timing for the wind is predicted to be after midnight Sunday through Tuesday evening, with the strongest winds to occur between daybreak on Monday and daybreak on Tuesday. We could see sustained winds of 35-45 miles per hour with wind gusts of up to 50 miles per hour before diminishing on Tuesday afternoon. This will be a prolonged 24-36 hour event, and with the high winds, coupled with heavy rain from Hurricane Sandy, the affects can include power and communications outages and significant tree damage, and damage to structures from falling trees or flying debris. All residents, businesses, and visitors to the region should be prepared to be without power and/or communications for an extended period of time due to the duration of the storm and the far reaching extent of this storm that will likely have utility crews extremely busy for days. Excessive rainfall from the event could cause streams and creeks to rise out of their banks and flood low lying or urban areas. Flooding may occur on small streams as well as flooding on the mainstem rivers mid to late week. A weather “watch” means that it could happen based upon current forecasts. It also means that you should continue to monitor the weather for updated conditions.

Here are some tips for the storm:

To report a power outage, call Potomac Edison at 888-LIGHTSS.

If it is an emergency, such as sparking or arcing wires or wires on the ground, that is an emergency and you should call 9-1-1.

Think about all of the things that won’t work if you don’t have power. Some of these include your well pump, the blower on your gas furnace, ATM machines, most gas stations, credit card transactions and plan accordingly.

Do not try to grill indoors. The fumes are toxic.

If you live in a floodplain or near rivers or streams, pay particular attention to rises in the water levels. They can come up very quickly, especially during periods of heavy rain. If a flood is likely in your area, you should:

• Listen to the radio or television for information.

• Be aware that flash flooding can occur. If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground. Do not wait for instructions to move.

• Be aware of streams, drainage channels, canyons, and other areas known to flood suddenly. Flash floods can occur in these areas with or without such typical warnings as rain clouds or heavy rain.

If you must prepare to evacuate due to flooding, you should do the following:

• Secure your home. If you have time, bring in outdoor furniture. Move essential items to an upper floor.

• Turn off utilities at the main switches or valves if instructed to do so. Disconnect electrical appliances. Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.

If you have to leave your home, remember these evacuation tips:

• Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.

• Do not drive into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely. You and the vehicle can be quickly swept away.

The following are important points to remember when driving in flood conditions:

• Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars causing loss of control and possible stalling.

• A foot of water will float many vehicles.

• Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles including sport utility vehicles (SUV’s) and pick-ups.

“We have been preparing for the storm since mid-week,” said Barbara Miller, Jefferson County Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director. “We set up all of the phones and equipment in our Emergency Operations Center (EOC) on Friday so that it will be ready if/when we need to activate it and we had an initial briefing on Friday. Preparations have been on-going with establishing 12-hour shifts for those who work or volunteer in the EOC, where information and resources are coordinated for the event and assisting the various agencies in the County to get ready to deal with it, as well as coordinating with the State office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management about having additional assets on standby in case they are needed. And we’ve been busy running down rumors and trying to correct them. This is a dynamic storm that has a lot of various predictions for different parts of our state and its easy for people to get confused as to what to expect. Right now, it looks like a wind, rain, and possible flooding event for our area. If there’s any good news, it is that temperatures are supposed to stay above freezing here in Jefferson County throughout the event and any snow should stay off to our west….unless, of course, the forecast changes. We strongly encourage residents to continue their preparations for this storm. This should include food and water on hand for up to a week, pet supplies, a battery operated or crank-style flashlight and radio. Have a car charger for your cell phone. If your power goes out, you can charge your cell phone in your vehicle, and to have all of your vehicle tanks full. Also, please check on your friends, family, and neighbors, especially anyone you know who may be elderly or in need of assistance.”

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