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McDonnell: Expect storm-related damage, outages in Virginia

- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 28, 2012

With southern coastal Virginia already feeling the effects of the megastorm being formed by Hurricane Sandy, Gov. Bob McDonnell warned people throughout the state that he is prepared and has adequate reinforcements for a long week of disaster and recovery.

"It's going to get a lot worse than it is now in the next couple of days, especially in Northern Virginia on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday," Mr. McDonnell said at a Sunday afternoon press conference.

Knowing the ramifications of the megastorm when forecasters noticed the unusual and potentially deadly juxtaposition of Hurricane Sandy, cold-weather systems from the north and west and high tides, Mr. McDonnell declared a state of emergency for Virginia on Friday. The forecasts have borne out to be mostly accurate, he said, with 5 to 7 inches of rain and sustained winds of up to 40 to 45 miles per hour expected through Tuesday.

"It's going to be a long event," Mr. McDonnell said. "With 48 hours plus of rain and heavy winds, we're expecting significant power outages."

Mr. McDonnell said he will make an announcement Sunday evening about whether state government will be closed on Monday. He also said he would work with local voter registrars to make sure that people who have permission to vote early in person have the chance to cast their ballots.

About 20,000 people in the Hampton Roads area have already experienced storm-related power outages, Mr. McDonnell said. By Sunday afternoon, all but 3,000 of them had their power restored. Dominion Virginia has an additional 2,000 people on standby to help with power outages across the state, Mr. McDonnell said.

Rodney Blevins, vice president of Dominion Virginia, spoke at Mr. McDonnell's press conference and assured people that his crews are dedicated to getting the lights back on as soon as possible.

"We certainly expect the weather conditions to continue to deteriorate, but we have crews in the field and we will continue to work," Mr. Blevins said.

Other help is available as well. Mr. McDonnell said he has authorized the activation of up to 750 National Guard troops to help out around the state. Additionally, about 1,000 men and women from the Virginia Department of Transportation are ready to keep the roads clear and help with evacuations, working in 12-hour shifts if necessary.

VDOT Commissioner Greg Whirley cautioned people to stay at home and not drive while the storm is taking place. Standing water on a roadway can lead to hydroplaning, and flooded roadways can be dangerous to drive on.

Aside from preparations that already should have been made, the Republican governor suggested that the best thing people can do is use common sense around the storm. He urged people to stay inside and be good neighbors.

"At the end of the day, if people don't make good, wise common-sense decisions on their own, they put themselves at unnecessary risk," he said.

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