Preparing ahead of the storm: determining risks before a hurricane

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ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Hurricanes and tropical storms are usually associated with warm coastal areas. However, tropical cyclones can cause major impacts inland.

It’s important to determine what types of weather hazards could happen where you live so you can prepare accordingly. While coastal areas would typically have to deal with threats such as storm surge, rip currents, and large waves during a hurricane, that’s not the case for Southwest and Central Virginia.

One of the main hurricane hazards for our region is inland flooding.

In 1969, the remnants of Hurricane Camille caused significant damage in the Appalachian Mountains, especially in the James River Basin. Portions of Alleghany, Rockbridge, and Nelson counties received anywhere from 8 to more than 20 inches of rainfall. More than a hundred people died in the flood waters.

Hurricane Michael caused major flooding issues in the Southwest and Central Virginia area in October 2018. By the time the storm made it to the Commonwealth, Michael had become a tropical storm. Even though it wasn’t a hurricane, the storm caused millions of dollars in damage, record flooding, and thousands of power outages. The storm claimed 16 lives in the region. Several of those deaths are due to flooding.

According to the National Hurricane Center, 83% of tropical cyclone-related fatalities were caused by inland flooding between 2016-2019.

If you live in an area that is prone to flooding, you can take certain steps to prepare for future hurricane and tropical storm events.

  • Know flood terminology, such as the difference between a Flash Flood Warning and a Flash Flood Watch. To learn more about various types of flood alerts, click here.
  • Be sure to have plan in place if evacuations are ordered. Pick a safe location on higher ground to shelter in the event of an evacuation.
  • Build an emergency supply kit in case you need to evacuate immediately. To find ideal items to store in a supply kit, click here.
  • Avoid traveling, if possible. If you’re leaving your home, never walk, swim, or drive through flood waters. Avoid bridges over fast-moving creeks and streams as the water could wash the bridge away.

Flooding is not the only issue we face here in Southwest and Central Virginia. Tropical storms and hurricanes can also produce damaging winds and tornadoes. Make sure to have at least two ways to receive weather alerts. Download the WFXR News app and purchase a a NOAA Weather Radio.

The Atlantic Hurricane Season runs from June 1 to November 30, but tropical storms and hurricanes can develop at any time of the year. It’s important to prepare before the season begins and tropical systems are more likely to develop.

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