The perfect storm: Region braces for Hurricane Isabel

Story by Chris Graham 

Hurricane Isabel could drop as much as 15 inches of rain on the Greater Augusta County area on Thursday.

Double-digit rain totals are likely if the storm continues on its current track, Virginia state climatologist Patrick Michael told The Augusta Free Press on Monday.

“What we can expect in Augusta County out of this storm is a lot of rain and some wind,” Michael told the AFP.

That could actually end up being good news – if a foot or more of rain can be good news.

Michael said the heaviest of heavy winds associated with Isabel – which is expected to make landfall near the Virginia-North Carolina border early Thursday – will likely miss Western Virginia.

“We probably will see winds powerful enough to knock over some trees, but the major problem, again, will be with the rain,” Michael said.

 

Battening down the hatches

Gov. Mark Warner has already declared a state of emergency – and has directed state agencies to take “all reasonable actions necessary to protect the health and safety of Virginians from the potentially damaging effects of Hurricane Isabel.”

“Current forecasts predict that Hurricane Isabel could cause significant coastal and inland flooding, damaging winds and possible tornadoes throughout the Commonwealth,” Warner said at a Monday-afternoon news conference. “I have declared a state of emergency so that state resources will be available to respond anywhere in Virginia should the need arise.”

Local officials are doing their part to be on the ready.

“We’re getting all the key players together here in the city (Monday afternoon), and we’ll be meeting with regional leaders (today) to make sure we’re all on the same page as far as our ability to respond,” Waynesboro emergency-operations director Gary Critzer told the AFP on Monday.

“We’ve developed a plan of action and begun to mobilize the resources we have at our disposal,” Waynesboro city manager Doug Walker said late Monday.

“We’re expecting a significant rain event, and we want to be prepared as much as possible for what happens,” said Walker.

 

Storm track

The most recent forecast models have the storm following the Virginia coast all the way up the Chesapeake Bay throughout the day on Thursday – with the storm reaching the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., area late Thursday.

The last major tropical system to impact on the Shenandoah Valley came through in 1996 – when the remnants on Hurricane Fran dumped more than 10 inches of rain and caused significant flooding in downtown Waynesboro and other parts of the Greater Augusta County region.

Michael said Fran does not compare to Isabel in terms of its strength.

“This is a much, much stronger storm than Fran,” Michael said.

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