Getting ready for Florence

Published 7:48 pm Tuesday, September 11, 2018

IW supervisors declare emergency

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Isle of Wight and Surry residents were scouring grocery shelves this week as the area prepares for Hurricane Florence — a Category 4 storm expected to make landfall Friday on the North Carolina coast.

Wind effects could begin to be felt locally on Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.

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The Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors on Monday declared the county to be in a state of emergency, which allows officials easier access to emergency resources and streamlines the purchase of necessary items. 

Meanwhile, forecasters warn that Florence could slow down as it approaches the coast and moves inward, leading to the threat of extensive flooding and rainfall.{mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

In response to the approaching storm, Gov. Ralph Northam issued a mandatory evacuation order Monday evening for residents living in Zone A — the lowest lying areas of Hampton Roads. Isle of Wight County has small areas of land within Zone A, mostly in waterfront regions of Carrollton, Smithfield, Days Point and Rushmere.  

Isle of Wight County Emergency Coordinator Andrea Clontz said Monday that Zone A refers only to storm surge tidal flooding. The National Hurricane Center is predicting 10-15 inches of rain for the area as of 11 a.m. on Tuesday. 

Isle of Wight Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson said residents should be aware of their surroundings, especially if they live near an area that regularly floods. 

Isle of Wight has a 60-70 percent chance of tropical storm force winds — more than 39 mph — as of 11 a.m. Tuesday. 


Isle of Wight County is standing ready to open two shelters — at Smithfield Middle School and Windsor High School — if necessary on Thursday, said Clontz.

Together, both shelters have a capacity of 1,800 people, she said. 

Pets accompanying their owners to the shelter will be housed at the Animal Shelter until that facility is full, with additional animals held at Smithfield High School. Only pets of those staying in the shelter will be housed, said Clontz.

Information will be shared through the Isle of Wight County website and the IWAlert system.  Questions can be directed to the Department of Emergency Services at 365-6308.

Surry County plans to open a shelter at L.P. Jackson Middle School on Wednesday at 6 p.m., said Surry County Emergency Services Coordinator Ray Phelps on Tuesday morning. 

Phelps said that residents who want to use the emergency shelter should bring their own bed linens and should be sure to take whatever medications they will need while away from home. See page 3 for more shelter information.

•Emergency response

Clontz said that after Hurricane Isabel in 2003, the county purchased boats for all of its fire departments, so those will be available, if necessary. The Isle of Wight Sheriff’s Office, as well as Emergency Services, also plan to man their agencies on 12-hour around-the-clock shifts. 


Isle of Wight County schools are closed Wednesday through Friday due to the storm, according to school officials. Isle of Wight Academy and Surry County schools were in the decision-making phase as of Tuesday morning.


The James River Bridge will not conduct bridge lifts if the winds exceed 45 mph, however, traffic will still be allowed to use it, according to VDOT. Isle of Wight County makes the call on whether to close the bridge due to flooding on Route 17 leading up the bridge, according to VDOT. 

Isle of Wight County Sheriff James Clarke said that if the road becomes impassable it will be shut down. 

Clontz pointed out Monday that it only takes six inches of water to cause a car to float. 

The Jamestown Scotland Ferry will continue with normal operations until 10 a.m. on Wednesday. After that, it will be determined if the boats will be moved to safe harbor, according to VDOT. 

With evacuations underway in the Outer Banks and parts of Virginia, motorists can expect an increased volume of traffic on Route 460, and interstates 264, 664 and 64 into Wednesday, according the Virginia State Police. 

For road conditions and updates now and throughout the storm, drivers can call 511 or go to or download the 511 Virginia app.  

•Community Electric Cooperative

Community Electric Cooperative has implemented a plan of action to coordinate its response to the weather, according to CEC Operations Officer Jonathan Thompson. 

“We have implemented a plan of action to coordinate our response to the anticipated severe weather. We have been in contact with our statewide association to have additional resources and support on standby from other Virginia electric cooperatives should they be needed. Tree crews are on standby for the aftermath in addition to equipment and materials being readied as we face the possibility of widespread outages and damage throughout our service territory,” said Thompson.


Meanwhile, residents flocked to grocery stores, hardware stores and gas stations in anticipation of the storm. 

Shelves were cleared of bread, water, ice and canned goods on Tuesday. Store clerks exchanged stories of harried and overwrought customers disappointed when needed supplies were sold out. 

“The thing with these storms is, we won’t know the magnitude until after it hits,” said David Howell. 

Although a small segment of his land dips into Zone A, he has no plans to evacuate. “My next-door neighbor’s in Zone X. If I have to evacuate,” he joked, “I’ll just go over to his house.” 

Mike Smith tried to recall the last time the area was hit by a major hurricane.

“I don’t know if we’ve had a Category 4 hit this area in a long time,” said Mike Smith, a lifelong resident of Hampton Roads and father of two. 

“It looks like tomorrow’s going to be their last day of school before the storm,” he said. 

The last memorable hurricane to hit the area was Isabel in 2003. Isabel came ashore in North Carolina as a Category 2 storm.  Isle of Wight and Surry counties suffered sustained winds of up to 54 mph and gusts of up to 83 mph when the storm arrived here. Isabel left a wake of downed trees and power lines, ruined homes, prolonged power outages and overturned boats. It took weeks for life to return to normal.

Editor John Edwards and staff writer Fred Lee contributed to this report.  {/mprestriction}