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Virginia coast eyes powerful hurricane

Hurricane Earl is expected to spare Halifax County as it makes its way northward later this week, according to officials with the National Weather Service (NWS) in Blacksburg. NWS Meteorologist Jan Jackson said the hurricane that hit islands in the northeastern Caribbean earlier this week with high winds and heavy rains is predicted to affect the coastal region of Virginia but not track inland.

“No, not on its current path,” said Jackson when asked if the hurricane would track as far inland as Halifax County.

Even though the storm is predicted to have minimal impact on Halifax County, Kirby Saunders, Halifax County Emergency Services coordinator, said his office is prepared for the worst.

“We were on standby alert earlier in the week,” Saunders said. “But we’ve relaxed a bit since the storm is not expected to come this far west,” he added.

Saunders said the county’s readiness level was increased with the threat posed by Hurricane Earl. “We topped off our generators in the event they were needed to handle power outages,” he said. “We also have a contract for standby generators and ice, which can be used for water or for cooling.

“We’re not in the direct path, but we are prepared if the storm should change direction and come further inland,” Saunders said.

The NWS is predicting the storm to hit the coastal regions of North Carolina and Virginia. 

“Hurricane Earl could affect the Outer Banks of North Carolina and the Norfolk and Hampton Roads section of Virginia with high surf, rip currents and the possibility of heavy rain,” Jackson said. “We’re not expecting the storm to track any further west than the coast.”

The meteorologist said Hurricane Earl should arrive in Virginia late Thursday night or early Friday morning. “All models show it turning further out to sea,” Jackson said. “The biggest threat is on the coast.”

A strong trough of low pressure is approaching the upper Midwest and should increase in strength as it progresses further east, Jackson said. “This low pressure trough should bump Hurricane Earl further out into the Atlantic,” he explained Tuesday.

“The next 24 to 48 hours are the key.”

Jackson said the hurricane is beginning to slow down a bit. “It could even stall and stay to the south,” he said.

The NWS forecast for Halifax County calls for fair weather through the Labor Day weekend. “You should have sunny and dry conditions with temperatures in the 80s and lower humidity over the holiday weekend,” Jackson said. “Temperatures should warm back up about Tuesday.”

Brian Mosier, vice president of Business Development for Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative (MEC), shared helpful tips for area residents to put into practice during Hurricane Season. Practical tips such as filling bathtubs with water, keeping gallon jugs filled with additional water on hand, keeping an extra stash of batteries for flashlights and radios, maintaining an adequate supply of canned foods and a non-electric can opener and keeping coolers with plenty of ice for milk, medications or other perishables are among the tips offered by Mosier.

Should power outages occur, residents are reminded to avoid calling the 911 Center about the restoration of electricity, and to instead keep telephone numbers to electrical and additional utilities providers close at hand.

“If you receive electricity from Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative, and you have a power outage, call the cooperative at 1-877-632-5688. Your outage will be automatically reported by your phone number in our data base so repeated follow-up calls are not necessary,” said Mosier, adding that customers should take care to ensure that MEC and other providers have updated contact information on hand should a crisis occur.

“If your home or cell phone numbers are not correct on your account, your outage may not be restored as quickly as those with the correct information. Residents should call us or whoever serves as their provider as soon as possible with updated, correct information,” said Mosier.

Dominion Virginia Power customers can report power outages by calling 1-888-667-3000.

MEC, Dominion Virginia Power and other local utilities providers will maintain ongoing contact with local media outlets for the duration of any future crisis situations, providing updates as needed.