Hanna: Storm could be headed toward Valley

Story by Chris Graham

Local emergency-services officials are keeping their eyes on the Atlantic as what is now Tropical Storm Hanna makes its way up the Eastern Seaboard toward a possible rendezvous with the Shenandoah Valley and Central Virginia this weekend.

“We haven’t gotten any impact statements from the Weather Service or VDEM. The cone of error that it could take is just so wide that it could potentially come up through the Valley or miss us completely. We’re watching the storm closely to see where it will go, but we’re just too far out to know exactly how it could impact us,” said Gary Critzer, the director of emergency services in Waynesboro, which has seen significant flooding from September tropical systems twice in the past dozen years, most recently in 2003 when the remnants of Hurricane Isabel dumped 19 inches of rain north of Waynesboro that made their way up the South River and eventually into the downtown business district and the Club Court residential neighborhood.

A forecaster in the National Weather Service office in Sterling whom I just spoke with this afternoon said, as Critzer did, that it is still too early to tell how Hanna might track, though the current forecast track from the National Hurricane Center in Miami has the storm basically headed straight for the Valley after making landfall near the South Carolina-Georgia border midday Friday.

The projected storm track has Hanna reaching the Virginia-North Carolina border near Danville by 8 a.m. Saturday and then riding the Blue Ridge Mountains the rest of the day Saturday, dumping as much as four inches of rain with locally heavier amounts.

Critzer is already mobilizing the resources he has at his disposal in the event that it will be necessary to coordinate a plan of action.

“We will be watching the storm closely and talking with the Weather Service to get the latest on where the storm is supposed to go. And if it looks like we could be in the danger zone, we will be taking the appropriate steps to talk with the city departments and with the business community and residents to begin preparations,” Critzer said.

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