U.Va. issues advisories for Hurricane Florence, prepares for potential impacts

Gov. Ralph Northam has declared a state of emergency and issued mandatory evacuations along Virginia’s coast

ns-Florence-CourtesyWikimedia

Hurricane Florence could make landfall as soon as Thursday

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons | Courtesy Wikiemida Commons

The University has issued advisories to the community this week in preparation for Hurricane Florence, a Category 4 storm expected to hit Virginia this week.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency Saturday and issued 245,000 mandatory evacuations in coastal areas of Virginia. The state is in the process of mobilizing resources to prepare for the storm, which is projected to strike the East Coast as soon as Thursday. States of emergency and evacuation orders have also been declared in North and South Carolina.

In anticipation of the hurricane, several changes have already been made at the University. On Tuesday, the Virginia athletics department decided to shift locations of Virginia’s football game Saturday from Charlottesville to Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, Tenn. Additionally, the Board of Visitors announced that its planned three-day series of meetings, scheduled for Wednesday to Friday, will now take place solely on Wednesday.

In an email to the University community, Patrick Hogan, U.Va.’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, warned the community of the impending storm and suggested community members prepare themselves, suggesting the Federal Emergency Management Agency website as a resource for preparation strategy. 

Hogan also said that a final decision will be issued regarding class cancellations by Wednesday at 4 p.m.

“I urge each of you to plan for any personal needs over the next several days should power outages or other major problems arise,” Hogan said in the email. “This includes keeping your electronic devices charged, ensuring you do not run out of important medications, and having an adequate supply of water and nonperishable food on hand.”

Hogan cited flooding and strong winds as possible problems for the area and noted that the University’s Severe Weather Assessment Team will be monitoring the storm and issuing updates. Hogan also said that the administration is working with the City of Charlottesville, Albemarle County and state to prepare, adding that further details on their plans will be sent out to the community.

Hogan sent out a second community alert Tuesday, adding a warning about University buildings possibly losing power. 

“Student Affairs, Housing and Residence Life, UVA Dining, and the Provost’s Office are developing contingency plans for students if we lose power on Grounds,” Hogan said. “In the event of power disruptions, students are advised to return to their residences and shelter in place. Students in residence halls will be kept informed by their resident advisors.”

Several public universities in Virginia have already cancelled classes. 

Old Dominion University and the College of William and Mary have closed and cancelled classes. The University of Mary Washington will be closed starting Wednesday until next Monday. Virginia Commonwealth University will be closed from Thursday until next Tuesday. Virginia Tech plans to have classes remain in session.

Environmental science Prof. Bob Davis explained how Hurricane Florence could particularly affect Charlottesville. 

“The storm could hit land and the rains would die out, but it could sit off the coast of the Carolinas, which would cause a period, possibly days, of heavy rainfall,” Davis said.

Davis also advised that students prepare themselves for the storm by staying off roads, charging devices and keeping non-perishable foods around. 

“Students should stock up on water, make sure there devices are charged in case of power loss, and have an evacuation plan just in case,” Davis said. “[They should] make sure they can get to some higher ground if they need to. Maybe a friend’s apartment on the third floor.”

According to its website, FEMA suggests that people do not try to travel through flood waters, gather food and water for at least three days, stock their first aid kit, buy a flashlight with extra batteries, plan communication with family members in case of loss of power and turn refrigerators on to the lowest setting in the hours before a storm to keep perishables cold in loss of power. 

Category 4 storms have maximum sustained winds of 130 to 156 mph. Florence follows several Category 4 hurricanes that wrecked parts of the U.S. last year. Hurricane Harvey — the costliest tropical storm since Katrina — destroyed areas of Houston last August. Hurricane Irma killed 75 people in Florida last September. A few weeks later, Hurricane Maria devastated Florida and Puerto Rico, killing many and leaving much of Puerto Rico without power.

Fourth-year College student Azam Khalfe is from Houston, but was in Charlottesville during Hurricane Harvey.

“My family is in Houston, and it so it was pretty hard while I was in Virginia to see everything that was going on in Houston,” Khalfe said. “I’m definitely worried about Hurricane Florence and I’m preparing as much as possible. I’ll probably go for a run today just to get some stuff.”

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