CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A State of Preparedness was in effect across West Virginia well ahead of the projected landfall of Hurricane Florence, a Category 4 storm as of Tuesday morning packing 140 mile per hour winds with the potential to strengthen.
For the Mountain State, “The question is what Florence is going to do once it gets onshore,” said Ray Young, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, on Tuesday morning.
“We know it’s going to hit the Carolinas, but the steering flow gets very weak once it gets to the Carolinas. There’s still a lot of uncertainty in the track.”
Some models include West Virginia in the heavy moisture plumes, while other models keep the largest amounts of rain out of Florence well to the east of the Mountain State.
“It’s going to depend on where it goes after it comes onshore,” Young explained.
“It is still definitely a possibility to get into West Virginia so you’ve kind of got to stay tuned, start making preparations and people need to stay very tuned to the weather because, if this thing does get on top of us, it could cause catastrophic flooding.”
On Tuesday, Governor Jim Justice signed off on the State of Preparedness which allows for the mobilization of resources to prepare for any potential flooding or other storm-related damage.
I have issued a State of Preparedness in advance of Hurricane Florence. This will cover the entire state and allow for the mobilization of resources to assist with preparation for any potential flooding or other storm related damage. https://t.co/fnxQrrhEqc #WV #WVGov
— Governor Jim Justice (@WVGovernor) September 11, 2018
“What the State of Preparedness is doing is alllowing this new National Guard asset that we have for swift water (rescue) to be able to be pre-positioned with our civilian first responders from Clendenin and Glasgow,” said Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, state adjutant general.
“It’s allowing us to move some people to some armories and other locations ahead of things.”
The step above that, if necessary, would be a State of Emergency declaration.
A day earlier, Governor Justice ordered leaders with the West Virginia National Guard and officials with the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to begin storm preparations.
For Voluntary Organizations Active In Disaster, prep work included identifying possible shelter locations in coordination with the American Red Cross, moving additional disaster supplies into existing warehouses in Beaver, Wheeling and Mingo County and participating in daily phone briefings with other states in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Region Three which include North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland and Virginia.
“I’m very concerned,” Jenny Gannaway, executive director of VOAD, said Tuesday of the potential for flooding.
Much uncertainty remains on Florence exact track. However, it is never too early to begin preparing and have an emergency plan in place now. Confidence is low on what impacts our area could see, but heavy rain and flooding are some potential hazards that could affect our area.. https://t.co/3x7IUtp14a
— NWS Charleston, WV (@NWSCharlestonWV) September 10, 2018
“If we get the rainfall (in West Virginia) that they are talking about, that’s more rain than we got in 2016. With having Gordon just go through our state, it’s going to be very hard for us to be able to handle that much rain,” she said.
Rain from the remnants of Tropical Storm Gordon were still driving up river levels in parts of West Virginia on Tuesday, including the Ohio River and the Potomac River.
The Ohio River was projected to crest by Monday afternoon at Wheeling and Moundsville at nearly 40 feet, several feet above flood stage.
Live racing and simulcast racing was canceled through Wednesday at least at Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack due to high water and cleanup efforts.
By late Monday, the Ohio River was expected to crest at the Willow Island Lock just above flood stage putting water up onto parts of Ohio State Route 7, Twonship Road 443 and Lenards Landing among others.
Public schools were closed Tuesday in Pleasants County due to flooding.
A crest forecast was set for Wednesday morning at the Belleville Lock in Wood County about a foot above flood stage.
In Jefferson County, along the Potomac River in Shepherdstown, a Tuesday morning crest was being recorded.
High water was reported late Monday into Tuesday in parts of Raleigh County and Mercer County.
It could be Thursday before all Flood Warnings tied to Gordon are lifted across West Virginia.
Gordon has left West Virginia vulnerable, said Young.
“If we do get into a situation where we have heavy rain over the area, this flooding will be very quick, very rapid on the rivers as well as the small streams,” said Young.
“The ground is saturated. We can’t take much rain at all.”
Gannaway said West Virginians should prepare for what the weather brings.
“This could change this afternoon. It could change tomorrow,” said Gannaway. “My fingers are crossed that it will but, right now, we really have to be prepared.”