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McDonnell: ‘The next 12 hours are going to be very, very bad for Virginians’

- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 27, 2011

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell Saturday evening confirmed that three people in the state have died as a result of Hurricane Irene, which made its way up the Eastern Seaboard on Saturday.

An 11-year-old boy was killed when a tree fell on an apartment building in Newport News and in southern Virginia a tree fell across a car killing the passenger, officials said. Mr. McDonnell confirmed a third death in Chesterfield County, but provided no additional details. Police said the victim was a man who was in a house with six other adults when it was hit by a tree.

"Hurricane Irene continues to be a very dangerous and catastrophic storm," Mr. McDonnell said at an evening news conference. "This period right now and over the next couple of ours will be among the most dangerous periods for southeast Virginia. We expect a much higher level of storm surge than previously predicted."

A storm surge of between 5 and 8 feet was predicted in Virginia Beach and Hampton Roads. State police by 8:30 p.m. had responded to 152 crashes and 83 disabled vehicles, officials said.

"We're expecting days or longer when it comes to challenges of high water," Mr. McDonnell said.

The governor has authorized localities to issue curfews for the next 48 hours, and some, including Newport News, Hampton, and Suffolk, had already done so Saturday night.

Mr. McDonnell said that as of Saturday night, there were nearly 800,000 customers — or close to 2 million people — without power.

"We were out there restoring service … it gets to a point where it's imprudent for us to be out there working in the conditions, but as soon as it gets to the point to where we can be out there again in those areas, area by area, our folks are ready to get to work to restore service," said Rodney Blevins, vice president of distribution operations for Dominion Virginia Power.

A flash flood warning for the Metro D.C. area issued by the National Weather Service has issued a was in effect until 11:30 p.m.

In Arlington, the County Detention Facility lobby was scheduled to be open from 5 p.m. Saturday until noon on Sunday to serve as a last resort for the homeless. The jail has food and cots for 40. All Arlington County facilities closed Saturday at noon and will remain closed through Sunday.

The County's Department of Human Services also announced it would open a second shelter for the homeless at the Central United Methodist Church, 4201 Fairfax Drive. It can accommodate up to 40 people from 5 p.m. Saturday to noon on Sunday.

The city of Alexandria was also under a local state of emergency, and city crews filled and distributed more than 10,000 free sandbags to city residents and businesses between Friday morning and Saturday morning.

Virginia received a pre-landfall federal emergency declaration, allowing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide supplies, equipment and other resources to state and local officials responding to the hurricane.

"It is no time at all for people to relax … 20-hours plus of sustained tropical storm force winds," Mr. McDonnell said heading into the storm on Saturday morning. "We are heading into the worst part of the storm now. … The next 12 hours are going to be very, very bad for Virginians."

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