(UPDATE 4:10 p.m.):
Power outages for its customers could be "prolonged" in Northern Virginia due to outages from the coming storm, Dominion Virginia Power advised in a news release sent out Saturday afternoon.
"This storm system will build in intensity over time and will remain a force for days, not just hours, causing major damage and extensive power outages," said Rodney Blevins, vice president of Distribution Operations, in a news release. "Its effects will be felt for days along much of the East Coast." Dominion noted that it will supplement its linemen and contractor tree trimmers with additional utility workers from other states.
"When customers lose their electric service during a major storm, their primary question is when their electricity will be restored," Blevins said in the release. "They expect our bucket trucks and line crews to be in the field as soon as the storm ends, or sooner, but strong winds may make working conditions too risky to proceed while the storm lingers.
"The safety of everyone is paramount. This means it may take longer to respond to some outages," Blevins said. Dominion prepared a video with its meteorologist Jeff Mock, to explain the characteristics of Hurricane Sandy and why the storm may be severe and long lasting. The video is viewable above.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell this afternoon encouraged Virginia residents to be vigiliant, be good neighbors and prepare early for Hurricane Sandy in a telephone press briefing.
Calling it a “strong storm of lengthy duration,” Gov. McDonnell also said residents should get extra blankets out of storage in the event of a power outage. The back end of this storm will bring in much colder air, with overnight temperatures dipping into the low 40s Tuesday night and beyond.
“It still looks like landfall of this system, whether it’s a hurricane or nor’easter, [will be] sometime late Monday in and around the Delaware Bay and north into New Jersey — the models seem to be converging on that scenario,” McDonnell said. But even if the center of the storm hits land north of Virginia, the storm is so extensive that Virginia residents still need to take the threat seriously.
The storm is expected to peak late Monday into Tuesday morning. Gov. McDonnell said sustained 60 mph winds are probable along the coast and the Eastern Shore, with slower winds along the Interstate 95 corridor.
Residents along the I-95 corridor can expect 4 to 5 inches of rain or more, with 7 to 10 inches predicted for areas along the coast.
In addition to the significant rainfall, a major concern is trees coming down. The unusually warm fall weather means that many trees still have most of their leaves. Combine that with strong wind and saturated soil and the likelihood of uprooted trees is significant.
Virginia Department of Transportation, Others Positioned
Virginia Department of Transportation crews are strategically positioned for the storm and ready to remove downed trees from area roadways, said VDOT’s Charlie Kilpatrick.
VDOT’s preparations also include having snowplows in place along the West Virginia border and being prepared to close bridges and tunnels as needed in the Hampton Roads area. Crews are also prepared to remove trees from roads and power lines quickly after the storm.
In addition, the Commonwealth’s Emergency Operations Center is open and is coordinating with local EOCs across the region. Federal Emergency Management Agency crews are helping with preparations in Virginia, and the Virginia State Police has pre-positioned troopers with additional staffing in Hampton Roads and along the Eastern Shore. The National Guard, Coast Guard and other agencies and organizations are also prepared.
“It looks as if preparations are almost complete,” said Michael Cline, State Coordinator for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. “We’re about as ready as we’re going to be able to be.”
Verizon Coordinating, Communicating and Preparing
After the June 29 derecho, thousands of residents were without 911 service for days.
“We have learned a lot from past storms. The greatest challenge we have is that all of our equipment runs on commercial power,” said Verizon’s Rick Cornwell said on the press briefing. Verizon has been in frequent communication with Dominion Virginia Power and other power companies in preparation for Hurricane Sandy.
Verizon’s preparations include repositioning and deploying additional generators.
“We think we’ve come a long way in coordination,” Cornwall said. (Read more about Verizon’s preparations here.)
Go to readyvirginia.gov more preparation tips, safety information and more.
Keep up with the storm locally by heading to our Hurricane Sandy section, which you can find by clicking the news tab above.