Area spared Florence’s impact

Published 6:22 pm Tuesday, September 18, 2018

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Florence was the storm that wasn’t — at least locally. 

Isle of Wight residents were able to relax on Sept. 12, when forecasts began to show that the Category 4 hurricane bearing down on the area was turning south and away from the Hampton Roads region.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

While concern shifted to those living in Florence’s new path churning through the Carolinas, Isle of Wight residents experienced some rain, wind and elevated tides on Thursday and Friday, but few reports of any real storm-related damage or injury.  

“We didn’t turn any wheels,” said Isle of Wight Volunteer Rescue Squad Chief Brian Carroll concerning storm-related calls. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Isle of Wight County Sheriff James Clarke said there was one report of a tree leaning on a power line in Windsor, causing a short-lived power outage.  There were no outages reported on Friday afternoon in Isle of Wight or Surry with Dominion Virginia power.

The road into King’s Cove in Carrollton was impassable on Thursday afternoon, but flooding there is not uncommon.

“You do what you have to do,” said King’s Cove resident Myra Cassell. 

Ironically, there were more reports of significant non-tidal flooding the previous weekend from an unnamed rainstorm than from anything Florence-related. 

In the run up to Florence’s arrival — and with forecasts predicting hurricane-force winds, heavy rains, flooding and storm surge — county officials cancelled the fair and schools were closed for three days. Some residents boarded up windows, the post offices covered outside mailboxes with plastic and tape, and at least one business put down sandbags. Traffic was heavy on Route 460 after Gov. Ralph Northam issued a mandatory evacuation order Sept. 11 for those living in low-lying storm surge sensitive areas now designated as Zone A. High water signs went up in areas that typically flood.  

Isle of Wight and Surry opened shelters, but Isle of Wight closed its shelter at Windsor High School after less than 24 hours as no evacuees showed up and conditions were improving. By Thursday night, eastern Virginia was no longer included in the National Hurricane Center’s “cone of probability” for Florence. She was headed elsewhere. 

As Florence made landfall in North Carolina on Friday, some Isle of Wight businesses opted to be closed or offered shortened hours — despite the lack of rain and wind locally. Isle of Wight County and the towns of Smithfield and Windsor closed its offices for the day

Northam called off the mandatory evacuation at 11 a.m. on Friday. Later that afternoon, the plastic came off the outdoor post office boxes. 

Carroll said the one bright spot in the preparations is that it showed that the county could fully staff its emergency response team with volunteers and paid personnel. 

Isle of Wight officials also saw it as beneficial practice drill.

“We were extremely fortunate that the storm did not materialize to the degree it might have, in this area, but it was a great opportunity for us to execute our hurricane response plan. There were some things we’re able to do a little better and some things we need to work on in the future,” said Isle of Wight Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson. 

The biggest disappointment was the cancellation of the fair. 

“Everyone was disappointed that we cancelled the fair, but still think that was the right call to make, given the forecast at the time,” said Robertson.

The threat of Florence also allowed Virginia residents to learn their zone — a new system for storm evacuations based on the proximity to tidal storm surge. The state website was so busy leading up to the storm that it repeatedly crashed while people tried to access the information.   {/mprestriction}