- Associated Press - Friday, October 2, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - The latest on drenching rains in Virginia. (All times local):

5: 20 p.m.

Starting Monday, the James River downstream from the Monitor-Merrimac Bridge Tunnel will be off limits to shellfishing.

The closure announced Friday is because of heavy rains and tidal flooding that may wash animal waste and human sewage into those waters.

The affected shellfish are oysters, clams and scallops. The emergency closure will be through Oct. 13.

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5:05 p.m.

Some Virginia residents aren’t letting flooded streets stop them from having some fun.

In flood-prone Poquoson, resident Mike Wagar said he plans to take his kayak out around 1 a.m. Saturday when it’s high tide again and the streets near his home fill with water.

“You might as well enjoy it,” the 25-year-old said Friday. If the water gets high enough, he can even go fishing off his porch, he joked.

Amanda Nadeau, whose family owns the house Wagar lives in, said while she’s relieved that Hurricane Joaquin is tracking off coast, flooding remains a big threat.

“You can’t replace memories of pictures of stuff that get ruined,” she said.

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4:55 p.m.

Virginia State Police have responded to 224 traffic crashes and 151 disabled vehicles as torrential rains drench much of the state.

A spokeswoman said Friday that the state had received more than 1,200 calls for service between midnight and 4 p.m.

There have been no reported fatalities as a result of the traffic accidents and few involved injuries.

State police advised drivers to stay alert for standing water and debris as more roads begin to flood.

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4:40 p.m.

The Virginia Department of Transportation has temporarily suspended ferry service at the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry.

VDOT says high waters caused by heavy rain and high tides are preventing the loading ramps on the docks from safely being raised and lowered onto the ferry boats.

VDOT says service will be restored as soon as waters recede. Motorists are advised to use the Route 17 James River Bridge as an alternate route.

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4:20 p.m.

Virginia’s largest power company is reporting more than 7,300 customers without power.

Many of the failures reported Friday by Dominion Virginia Power are in southeastern Virginia, where coastal flooding is widespread. Some 4,200 outages are reported there.

In the greater Richmond area, the utility reports 2,500 outages.

Dominion said that despite Hurricane Joaquin’s (wah-KEEN’s) track out to sea, electric customers should remain diligent with high winds and drenching rain still in the forecast.

The company said it is fully staffed with line and tree crews to respond to outages.

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4:05 p.m.

Steve Stougard stood in his front yard in Norfolk watching vehicle after vehicle decide whether to try to cross a flooded intersection or find another route.

Even though his neighbor’s back yard was completely flooded, Stougard said it could’ve been much worse.

“This isn’t too bad,” he said Friday as high tide approached. “It’s convenient that we’re not getting a direct hit from a major hurricane. I consider that an answered prayer. But we still have to deal with the rain, still have to deal with the tides.”

Wearing rain boots, Kristin Salsano walked about 20 yards through a flooded street from her office in downtown Norfolk to her car, which she purposely parked on higher ground to avoid getting flooded like so many other vehicles did in Norfolk on Friday.

“We’re pretty used to flooding like this so we just take precautions,” Salsano said. “I think everybody’s a little distracted because we just actually find it pretty entertaining - just watching people trying to come through the water.”

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1:50 p.m.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe says Virginia “dodged a bullet” with Hurricane Joaquin (wah-KEEN’).

McAuliffe expressed relief Friday on a WTOP Radio show about the hurricane’s current trajectory to veer out to sea. He added that the state is ready to handle the expected torrential rains over the coming days.

The governor declared a state of emergency earlier this week when there was a stronger possibility that Joaquin would slam Virginia’s coast.

“We dodged a bullet this week,” McAuliffe said.

The governor also noted that the heavy rains will mean flooding in the Hampton Roads area, a regular problem he said is being exacerbated by climate change.

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1:30 p.m.

Many streets in Hampton Roads flooded due to heavy rains and rising tides.

Norfolk reported dozens of streets and intersections were flooded by early Friday afternoon. A dog park next to the downtown headquarters of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals on the Elizabeth River was completely submerged.

Portsmouth police posted numerous pictures on social media of flooded streets and intersections. There were also flooding problems on some streets in Virginia Beach. The city’s school system canceled all after-school activities as a result of the weather.

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1:10 p.m.

With flood warnings still in place from a drenching on Tuesday, residents in southwest and Southside are bracing for another dose of rain through the weekend.

Meteorologist James Morrow said Friday an estimated 2 to 4 inches of rain is forecast through the weekend. He says the ground is already saturated and the Roanoke and Dan rivers are expected to reach flood levels.

Rains earlier this week caused flooding in the cities of Blacksburg and Roanoke and in Patrick and Henry counties.

The one-day rainfall in Blacksburg on Tuesday of 4.39 inches was a record.

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12:12 p.m.:

The Newport News Fire Department says it is responding to reports of downed trees and electrical lines.

The department says it began receiving calls for service Friday morning.

The department is urging those who live in low-lying areas prone to tidal flooding to pay attention and head to higher ground as needed.

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11:50 a.m.:

Virginia State Police say they’ve responded to dozens of vehicle crashes throughout the state as heavy rains cause problems for motorists.

Police say they responded to 74 crashes and 52 disabled vehicles by midday Friday.

The Hampton Roads region of the state had the most crashes and disabled vehicles, with 22 and 11, respectively.

State Police urged motorists to be on alert for flooded roadways, limited visibility and slick conditions as heavy rains continue through the day.

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11:30 a.m.:

Ducks are swimming in some streets in Hampton Roads.

Streets began flooding Friday morning from heavy rains and rising tides.

In Norfolk, the Lafayette River is spilling over its banks in some neighborhoods. The seat portion of a series of benches alongside the river in one Norfolk neighborhood is under water.

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10:30 a.m.:

Numerous school districts across Virginia are closing early due to potential flooding.

In southeastern Virginia, coastal flooding caused by high tides is expected to begin Friday afternoon, prompting plans to give students an early start to the weekend in Hampton City Schools and Isle of Wight County Schools.

In Norfolk, after-school activities at all middle schools and high schools were canceled. A half-day Pre-K program at an elementary school in an especially flood-prone part of the city has also been canceled.

Elsewhere in the state, dozens of school districts weren’t taking chances with the soggy weather, either. Among the districts closing early Friday are in Lexington, Martinsville, Roanoke and Salem.

Old Dominion University and Virginia Western Community College also are closing early.

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8:50 a.m.:

The emergency management coordinator in Chincoteague is urging residents to be wary of tidal flooding.

Brian Rush says that’s the main concern Friday and Friday night, with steady rainfall expected to become heavier throughout the day. High tides are forecast around noon and shortly after midnight.

The National Weather Service says up to an inch of rain could fall in the area during the day, with another quarter- to half-inch possible overnight.

The agency says winds could gust up to 48 mph Friday and up to 55 mph overnight.

Lighter rainfall and lighter winds are expected on Saturday.

The town of about 2,900 is the largest community on Chincoteague Island, known for a herd of wild ponies made famous by Marguerite Henry’s 1947 children’s novel, “Misty of Chincoteague.”

The island along Virginia’s Eastern Shore was swamped by the Ash Wednesday storm in 1962, with National Guard units performing about 20 rescue missions. No one was seriously hurt, and all of the approximately 130 ponies survived.

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6:45 a.m.:

The Virginia National Guard plans to have up to 800 personnel in place by Friday night to respond to storm-related events.

Staging areas will be in Hampton Roads, central and southwest Virginia and in the Shenandoah Valley.

Deputy director of joint operations Lt. Col. Douglas Gagnon says personnel must be in place before the severe weather hit to allow for a rapid response when needed.

He says among the tasks the Guard is prepared to handle include tree and debris removal and transporting flood victims to safety.

The Virginia National Guard was last on state active duty in February and March responding to heavy snow and flooding.

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6:30 a.m.:

A flash flood watch is in effect for Virginia through Saturday night.

The National Weather Service says rain will become widespread and increase in intensity over saturated ground, increasing the risk of landslides.

Rainfall amounts are expected to total 2 to 5 inches in some places. And that’s well before any possible impacts from Hurricane Joaquin moving up the East Coast.

A gale warning also has been posted for coastal areas.

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