Virginia Beach prepares as Hurricane Florence strengthens to Category 4

First round of emergency shelters to open Thursday

Latest information on Hurricane Florence from National Weather Service in Wakefield (Southside Daily/Courtesy of the National Weather Service in Wakefield)
Latest information on Hurricane Florence from National Weather Service in Wakefield (Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of the National Weather Service in Wakefield)

VIRGINIA BEACH — Hurricane Florence strengthened to a Category 4 Monday, as the city works to prepare for the prospect of a major storm making landfall this week.

During a news conference Monday, City Manager Dave Hansen said it appears the city will likely be effected by this storm, and he has ordered shelters to open Thursday morning.

“The first tier of shelters will be Kellam High School, Old Donation, Corporate Landing Middle School, and a medical shelter at the Field House,” Hansen said.

The following shelters will be opened Friday morning:

According to an email sent by Virginia Beach City Public Schools to parents, “all afternoon and evening activities and events will be cancelled for Wednesday, Sept. 12 to prepare for this,” referencing the three schools.

“In addition, all schools and administrative offices will be closed Thursday, Sept. 13,” according to the email.

In June 2017, the Commonwealth of Virginia introduced “tiered evacuation zones” to coastal Virginia. The designations address flood-prone areas, with the most at-risk areas designated “Zone A” and the least at-risk designated “Zone D.”

Hansen said residents in Zone A, as well as those in Sandbridge, Back Bay, and the Southern Watershed of the city, will likely be urged to evacuate, but did not specify when an announcement would be made.

Related story: This interactive tool allows you to ‘know your zone’ in the event of a storm

If asked to evacuate, residents may be directed to another zone or perhaps one of the shelters in Virginia Beach — but not necessarily outside of the city or Hampton Roads.

Residents can search their addresses and find their evacuation zone using this online tool. These new zones merely inform residents when, if, and where to evacuate, but do not change existing evacuation routes.

Jeff Orrock, chief meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Wakefield, said Virginia Beach can likely expect tropical storm force winds to arrive late Wednesday or early Thursday, with winds increasing throughout Thursday.

815AM Hurricane #Florence continues to strengthen this morning as cold cloud tops wrap around the center of circulation. Florence is expected to become a major hurricane later today. Satellite presentation argues that it may be already

Posted by US National Weather Service Wakefield VA on Monday, September 10, 2018

Although the storm’s possible impact on Virginia Beach remains unclear, Orrock said Hurricane Florence “will be a historic storm somewhere between our coast to North Carolina and possibly South Carolina. This is a dangerous storm and will impact a large region.”

By noon EDT on Monday, Florence had top sustained winds of 130 mph (195 kph). It was centered about 1,230 miles (1,985 kilometers) east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, and moving west at 13 mph (20 kph). Its center will move between Bermuda and the Bahamas Tuesday and Wednesday, and approach the coast of South Carolina or North Carolina on Thursday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

RELATED STORY: Navy directs Norfolk ships to ‘sortie’ ahead of Hurricane Florence. Here’s what that entails

Hansen said he plans to sign an order declaring an emergency in the city, and offered this reminder to residents.
“It is incumbent upon every citizen in Virginia Beach to prepare themselves for the conditions that we will be facing because of this storm,” Hansen said. “This is a serious threat.”
NOTE: 311 is available 24/7 for non-emergency services, while 911 is always available for emergencies. Find more information on evacuations in Virginia Beach, tips for going to a city shelter, disaster supplies, and emergency contacts with the city.

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