- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency Wednesday after heavy rains had caused widespread flooding on Tuesday and more downpours were expected over the next days as Hurricane Joaquin approaches the East Coast. As much as 10 of inches of rain is expected by week’s end.

“I cannot stress enough the imperative for Virginians to focus on the rainstorms that are headed our way tomorrow and Friday, well before Hurricane Joaquin could potentially impact Virginia,” Mr. McAuliffe said, warning Virginians about the dangers of the inclement weather.

The governor warned motorists not to drive through flooded areas and residents in low-lying areas to move to higher ground.

Mr. McAuliffe also said he has directed Brian Moran, Virginia’s secretary of public safety and homeland security, “to make every preparation for a major event Thursday and Friday.”

Meanwhile, the Navy’s U.S. Fleet Forces Command on Wednesday told sailors in Virginia to be ready to ship out within 72 hours if Joaquin approaches the Norfolk/Hampton Roads area. Naval officials directed facilities in the area to prepare for high winds and excessive rainfall by securing materials and removing debris from drainage areas.

The Norfolk/Hampton Roads area contains the world’s largest naval base, and serves as the home port for every East Coast-based aircraft carrier.

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Along the East Coast on Wednesday, some people were forced from the homes and trees toppled onto power lines as unrelenting downpours drenched the region — and even more is expected over the next few days. And Joaquin is anticipated to add the water works, though it was too early Wednesday to determine whether its path would take it over the area.

“The bottom line is: We are expecting very heavy rains all the way from the Carolinas up into New England,” said Bruce Terry, lead forecaster for the government’s Weather Prediction Center.

Before the hurricane draws close to the U.S., an area of low pressure in the Southeast and a front stalled over the East Coast will pull moisture from the Atlantic Ocean that falls as rain over the next few days, Mr. Terry said.

The heaviest rain is expected in wide swaths of North Carolina and Virginia, along with parts of Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey, according to a National Weather Service forecast map.

“Anything we get from the tropical system — or ahead of the tropical system — is going to exacerbate the already waterlogged conditions in the area,” said Mike Sporer, a National Weather Service forecaster in Roanoke.

On Tuesday, Virginia officials said heavy rains caused flooding along 138 roads across the state.

The weather service said Blacksburg received 4.39 inches of rain, the most in one day since officials started keeping records in 1952.

In Lynchburg, where 3.1 inches of rain fell, a hillside collapse blocked a road.

In Salem, Fire Chief John Prillaman said water rescue teams removed 100 people from a low-lying apartment complex and trailer park as a precaution from the rising South Fork of the Roanoke River.

Wendell Johns lives alone in a trailer in Elliston, west of Roanoke. He went to stay at a sister’s house Tuesday night after floodwaters from the South Fork behind his property rose up in his yard.

Mr. Johns, 74, said he took “everything I had on my back” and an oxygen tank to help him breathe.

When he returned Wednesday, “there was mud, logs, everything was picked up and turned around,” he said. “Everybody’s trash is washed up in my yard.”

He said the water rose another 1.5 feet but never got into his trailer, which is set 4 feet above the ground in a flood zone.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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