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Virginia under State of Emergency as Hurricane Irene approaches (video)

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Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is keeping the public informed of each new development of the approach of the hurricane and what is done statewide.

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is keeping the public informed of each new development of the approach of the hurricane and what is done statewide.

Courtesy Of the Governor\'s Office

Hurricane preparedness is in full swing in Virginia.

Governor Bob McDonnell ordered that state offices in areas that will feel the most significant impact from Hurricane Irene be closed at 3 p.m. on Friday. The affected areas are the cities of Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Hampton, Newport News, Suffolk, Chincoteague, Chesapeake, Portsmouth and Poquoson and counties of Isle of Wight, Lancaster, York, Gloucester, Middlesex, Matthews, James City, New Kent, Northampton, Northumberland, Richmond and Accomack.

"Citizens, including state employees, should be taking seriously the need to prepare for this significant storm and to ready their families, homes and communities for the possible evacuation and for the impacts of Hurricane Irene," McDonnell said Friday. "I am sending non-essential state employees home to prepare for the hurricane and to relieve congestion to aid in local evacuations, and I challenge other employers in those affected areas to release non-essential employees to enable them to prepare for Hurricane Irene as well."

State employees in other areas of the state will not be released early, but are encouraged to watch the storm closely and prepare accordingly.

Governor Bob McDonnell declared a state of emergency on Thursday in preparation for Hurricane Irene, which is anticipated to affect the Commonwealth over the weekend.

Depending on the storm's final track, there is the potential for flooding from both rainfall and storm surge in the eastern part of the state. Winds could potentially reach hurricane strength in the Hampton Roads area; tropical storm force winds could extend much further inland. The ultimate impact of Irene on the Commonwealth will be dependent upon the storm's exact track, which continues to be subject to change over the next 48 hours prior to landfall. A slight deviation by Irene to the east or west would have a significant impact on observable weather in the state.

The Commonwealth does not plan to reverse lanes on Interstate 64. Residents should review the evacuation routes for their area to determine the best route for their families. In the event that a mandatory evacuation is necessary in specific areas, citizens will be provided further instructions through local and state authorities.

A state of emergency is declared under state law so that state resources can be made available. The governor's emergency declaration ensures a fully coordinated state response to support local initial recovery efforts. A declaration also decreases time needed to get personnel, equipment and supplies on scene.

Speaking about the State of Emergency, Governor McDonnell noted, "We are issuing this state of emergency today as a precautionary measure in order to ensure that we are ready for any potential effects of Hurricane Irene in the Commonwealth. Over the last 24 hours, a number of weather models have shifted the forecasted track of Irene slightly to the west, increasing the potential for inclement weather and potentially dangerous conditions in portions of Virginia. At this time, I encourage all Virginians to gather items they may need this weekend in case of power outages and disruptions in public services and to make sure their family members and friends are also prepared for this storm. In conjunction with our federal, state and local partners we are monitoring Irene closely, and we will issue further statements and orders as necessary in accordance with the final projected path of the hurricane. At this time, 48 hours before any possible impact of Irene, it is imperative that, in an abundance of caution, all Virginians, state agencies and localities prepare for this storm."

State agencies are preparing by in the following ways:

*The Commonwealth has activated the Virginia Evacuation Coordination Team for Operational Response to assess the storm's potential impact and to take necessary actions.

*The Virginia Emergency Operations Center is coordinating the state's response with increased staffing available 24 hours a day and is now at Response Condition, due to Tuesday's earthquake.

*Virginia State Police personnel have been placed on stand-by and will be pre-positioned to the areas where they will be needed based on the final projected path of the hurricane. The Virginia State Police Swift Water Rescue Team is standing by in strategic locations.

*Chainsaw crews from the Virginia Department of Forestry are standing by with emergency response personnel and to help with debris removal.

*Virginia Department of Transportation crews are ready to clear roads and ensure roads are safe for travel.

*The Virginia National Guard has been authorized to bring personnel on state active duty and begin prepositioning resources.

*The Virginia Department of Health is coordinating with hospitals and long-term care facilities to ensure that they are prepared for storm impacts.

Video of storm clouds in Chesterfield,Virginia from Hurricane Irene. In this video Hurricane Irene is at the Outer Banks in North Carolina but rain bands are sending moisture northward.

Becky Robinette Wright is a freelance writer and photographer who lives in Virginia.