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UPDATE: Wind advisory issued for Halifax County

As Hurricane Sandy gets ready to unleash fury on the East Coast, strong winds remain the main concern in Halifax County.

A wind advisory has been issued through Tuesday night. West winds are expected to be from 15 to 30 mph with gusts up to 50 mph.

Virginia Department of Transportation crews are ready to deal with the aftermath of the storm.

The windy conditions could result in downed trees and power lines, causing power outages, according to VDOT.

As conditions worsen, VDOT recommends drivers avoid travel when possible.

Real-time road conditions and weather forecasts are available on VDOT’s traffic and travel Web site, www.511Virginia.org. Motorists can call 511 from any telephone in Virginia for road and traffic conditions on all major highways in the state.

ORIGINAL STORY:

Hurricane Sandy is expected to dampen Halloween plans in the area bringing rain and windy conditions that began Sunday and will continue throughout the week.

According to the National Weather Service in Blacksburg, Halifax County felt the wrath of Hurricane Sandy when its rain and high winds began hitting the area.

The monster storm's threat forced Halifax County Schools to close Monday.

Halifax County Emergency Services Coordinator Kirby Saunders, who was in conference calls all day Friday gathering information about the hurricane, advises residents to prepare for an extended weather event that is expected to bring wind and rain.

“We want residents to be prepared,” said Saunders.

“It’s all up in the air right now,” he added, as the track of the storm continues to change.

Saunders suggested residents have a two to three day supply of non-perishable foods and one gallon of water per person per day in the household, along with batteries and flashlights.

“We also ask that residents check on their neighbors, shut in and elderly who can’t get out and get the basics. Check on your neighbors in the community,” said Saunders.

Meteorologist Robert Stonefield of the National Weather Service in Blacksburg said Friday morning although the area is expected to see rain, the big concern will be high winds.

“The big concern is the winds, bringing 20-30 mph winds with 50 mph gusts to the area Sunday and Sunday afternoon,” said Stonefield.

Mixing with the winds and rain, the temperature is expected to take a dive as well. The high Sunday was in the mids 60s with the lows in the mid 40s. Winds began Sunday evening with 9-16 mph and are expected through late Tuesday with gusts up to nearly 40 mph.

“Add wind chill to those temperatures, and it’s going to feel even cooler,” said Stonefield.

These predictions are based on the latest track of the storm and continues to change rapidly, he added.

“Secure all loose items including anything in the yard like patio umbrellas,” said Stonefield.

The meteorologist expects in addition to the trees being stripped of the colorful leaves, there may be some power outages in the area due to falling tree limbs.

“Stay tuned to your weather channel and forecasts, the track keeps changing,” Stonefield said. “At worst we’re looking at breezy conditions all week.” 

Hurricane Sandy continued to move parallel to the East Coast on Sunday. A turn toward the northwest is forecast for today, during which time Sandy will transition to an extratropical system.

The National Weather Service in Blacksburg reported Hurricane Sandy moved northward through the Bahamas on Friday, bringing tropical storm conditions to the east coast of Florida.

Governor Bob McDonnell on Friday declared a state of emergency in Virginia in preparation for Hurricane Sandy, which is anticipated to affect the commonwealth over the weekend and early next week. 

There is some uncertainty with the storm’s final track, but all forecasts call for significant impacts to Virginia. Sandy is anticipated to be transitioning to an extratropical storm as it reaches Virginia, leading to a broader wind field with a wider reach across the commonwealth. In addition, current models predict a slower storm and therefore a longer duration event than usual.

Based on current forecasts, the eastern third of Virginia could experience tropical storm force winds for more than 48 hours, along with several inches of rain and coastal flooding. Even inland areas of Virginia could see strong winds and significant rainfall. There is a strong possibility of extensive power outages. 

Residents in the western and southwestern parts of the state could see some snowfall, and all areas of the commonwealth will experience colder temperatures in the wake of Sandy, which, when coupled with anticipated power outages, could produce additional challenges for Virginians.

According to the Virginia National Guard they have been authorized to bring up to 500 personnel on state active duty and the Virginia Army Guard and Virginia Defense Force are staging personnel in Fredericksburg, the Richmond metro area, Eastern Shore area and Hampton Roads with personnel and equipment capable of performing high water transport, debris reduction and reconnaissance patrols. 

The Virginia National Guard has not received any specific mission taskings, but personnel are moving into support areas on Saturday and will be ready for duty as directed by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

AccuWeather meteorologists reported Sunday afternoon that Sandy was one of the largest storms to hit the Atlantic basin with the worst of the storm hitting today and Tuesday. Washington, D.C., Norfolk and Boston were bracing for the “catastrophic” impacts Sunday, as hurricane Sandy remained on track to become a historical storm.

Speaking about the State of Emergency, McDonnell said, “We are issuing this state of emergency today as a precautionary measure in order to ensure that we are ready for any potential effects of Hurricane Sandy in the commonwealth. Weather forecasters are predicting significant weather impacts across much of Virginia, and a long duration event. Due to the track of this storm, and the fact that it will be a hurricane transitioning into a more nor’easter-like system, we could see severe weather lasting for 48 hours or more in the state. In that scenario, saturated soil coupled with high winds could lead to major tree damage and extensive power outages. 

A state of emergency is declared under state law so that state resources can be made available. The governor’s emergency declaration ensures a fully coordinated state response to support local initial recovery efforts. A declaration also decreases time needed to get personnel, equipment and supplies on scene.

State agencies are preparing for Sandy in the following ways:

The commonwealth has activated the Virginia Emergency Response Team.

 The Virginia Emergency Operations Center is coordinating the state’s response with increased staffing available 24 hours a day.

 Virginia State Police personnel have been placed on stand-by and will be pre-positioned to the areas where they will be needed based on the final projected path of the hurricane. The Virginia State Police Swift Water Rescue Team is standing by in strategic locations.

  Chainsaw crews from the Virginia Department of Forestry are standing by with emergency response personnel and to help with debris removal.

 Virginia Department of Transportation crews are ready to clear roads and ensure roads are safe for travel.

 The Virginia National Guard has been authorized to bring personnel on state active duty and begin prepositioning resources.

 The Virginia Department of Health is coordinating with hospitals and long-term care facilities to ensure that they are prepared for storm impacts.

For information about preparing for Hurricane Sandy and for regular updates, visit http://www.vaemergency.gov/. 

For general information about the storm, dial 211.