Remnants of Ida bring threats of flooding, downed trees, power outages

severe thunderstorm
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Virginians are busy preparing for their personal safety and working to protect their homes, cars and property as the remnants of Hurricane Ida approach.

The powerful Category 4 storm roared ashore in Louisiana packing winds of 150 miles per hour. The rain and storm surge caused significant flooding and the high winds downed trees and power lines leaving more than a million homes and businesses without power.

Ida’s remnants will have weakened by the time the storm reaches Virginia, but it poses significant threats of flooding and tornadoes. Virginians need to be prepared for heavy rain, high winds and the likelihood they could lose power. The National Weather Service is warning that most of the state of Virginia is at risk for severe weather from the storm and A Flash Flood Watch is in effect for Southwest and Western Virginia through Wednesday.

“If you can, stay home until the storm clears.” said Morgan Dean, Senior Specialist in Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “If you do have to travel, make sure you leave early, drive slowly and be on the lookout for dangers on and along the road.”

AAA driving tips

  • Pay attention to emergency alerts: Alerts are provided by the National Weather Service to mobile phones with no sign up required. Adding the National Weather Serviceto a mobile phone home screen can also make more detailed local information easier to find.
  • Turn Around, Don’t Drown! As little as six inches of water can cause drivers to lose control of vehicles and potentially stall engines.  Do not attempt to drive through flooded roads. Turn around, find another way, or find a safe location.
  • Seek higher ground: If the vehicle stalls or is suddenly caught in rising water, leave it immediately.
  • Never drive through standing water: Standing water can be deceiving and motorists should avoid it. No matter how shallow it may appear, water may be concealing downed power lines, be deeper than it appears, or have significant force from flooding.
  • Standing water may also be hiding potholes: Another good reason not to drive through it!
  • Watch for hydroplaning: No car is immune from hydroplaning on wet surfaces, including four-wheel drive vehicles. Even if brakes work under normal conditions that doesn’t mean they will react the same on slippery roads where tires roll with less traction. Avoid using cruise control as it can cause hydroplaning.
  • Be wary of high wind conditions: Larger trucks are more affected by high winds, so give them plenty of room on the roadways.
  • Watch out for debris or downed wires on the roadways: If in a vehicle that is in contact with a downed power line, the best rule is to stay there until help arrives. If there is an imminent danger, such a fire, stand on the door frame or edge of the vehicle and jump clear with both feet at the same time. Do not make contact with anything on the vehicle so that your body does not become a pathway for the electricity to reach the earth.
  • Make yourself visible: If you are forced to stop in traffic due to poor visibility, turn on emergency flashers immediately.
  • Take the nearest exit: If conditions worsen to the point where there are anysafety concerns, exit the roadway. Don’t just stop on the shoulder or under a bridge unless it is unsafe to proceed otherwise. If your visibility is compromised, other drivers may be struggling too.

How’s your emergency kit?  Now is the time, ahead of the storm, to replenish any supplies.

Recommended hurricane preparedness items

  • Water (one gallon per person, per day, for at least three days)
  • Three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First-aid kit
  • Adequate supplies of paper towels, toilet paper and sanitizing wipes
  • Face masks, gloves, soap and hand sanitizer
  • Cell phone, power bank and charger
  • Pet food and extra water
  • Prescription medications
  • A container so you can easily take your items along if you have to evacuate to a shelter or other location

Emergency kits, non-perishable foods, medical supplies, water and much more are part of smart preparations, but what about power outages that last for days and result in spoiled food.

“The threat of high winds means power outages could be possible in Virginia over the next few days, safe food handling is critical. Knowing how to safely store food and when it must be thrown away because it is not safe to eat is critical,” said Dean.

Food tips

  • Frozen food: Plan in advance to know if frozen food has been affected: Place a cup or small container of water in the freezer. Once frozen, put a coin on top of the ice. If power is lost and thawing occurs, the coin will be lower in the ice or at the bottom of the cup. Even if the cup has ice in it, the fact that the coin has dropped means that thawing and re-freezing has occurred.
  • Appliance thermometers: Keep appliance thermometers in freezers and refrigerators if one is not built in.  The Centers for Disease Control(CDC) recommends that refrigerators should remainbelow 40 degrees Fahrenheit and freezers at or below 0 degrees Fahrenheit for food to be safe.
  • How long can food last? Frozen food can last approximately 24 hours when the freezer is only half full and approximately 48 hours when it is full. Refrigerated food can only last about four hours before things like meat, eggs, meat and leftovers must be tossed. (Food and Drug Administration/ FDA) CDC
  • Shut the door! Keep freezer and refrigerator doors closed as much as possible to help maintain colder temperatures. Temperatures in the door of the refrigerator fluctuate more than the body of the unit so things like eggs should go on the shelves rather than in the door.
  • Temperature danger zone: Food in the “Danger zone” between 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 140 degrees Fahrenheit can grow dangerous bacteria. (United States Department of Agriculture)(USDA)
  • Is spoiled food covered by insurance? Spoiled food due to specific storm related power outages may be covered by an enhanced coverage option, an endorsement, on some insurance policies, although insurance varies by carrier and by policy. Food loss caused by wind related power outages are likely covered under these endorsements while flood related situations are generally not. Typical coverage is $500 after a deductible of $100, but varies.
  • Will claim result in higher future premiums? Lower cost claims can result in increased insurance rates in the future, thus considering the difference between the value of the claim and the impact of increased rates is recommended.
  • Making a claim: If making a claim, take pictures of food before throwing it away and gather any available receipts as some companies may require them.

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