Officials urge preparation ahead of hurricane season
The Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1, and Virginia officials say now is the time to prepare for a storm.
The Virginia Department of Emergency Management coordinates disaster responses — sending money and resources where they’re most needed. The organization is constantly reviewing plans and training for real emergencies, but officials said individuals need a plan of their own.
“We want all Virginians to take the opportunity today to prepare for emergencies,” Shawn Talmadge, state coordinator for emergency management, said Wednesday at the Virginia Emergency Operations Center in Richmond.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who also spoke at the VEOC, urged Virginians to “have a plan, make a kit, get insured. Learn what the policies, procedures, evacuation routes look like, so that you cannot just be prepared but you can protect.”
An evacuation plan should include details on an emergency destination, emergency contacts and more. And it should be written down.
“Because when an emergency presents itself, it can be a stressful time,” Talmadge said. “Under duress, you don’t make very good decisions.”
Next, a kit — which should include enough food, water and medicine to last 5 to 7 days without power at home — should be packed. Additionally, Talmadge said, it’s important to secure important paperwork and emergency cash.
He also reminded Virginians that flooding is not covered by normal homeowner’s insurance and that any resident of a low-lying, flood-prone area should check their policy and invest in flood insurance.
Additionally, he recommended becoming familiar with your local government and emergency management office — learning their plans and local evacuation routes.
This hurricane season, like last year’s, is likely to produce more storms than the average year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Though the commonwealth was largely spared from major impact last year, remnants of Hurricane Ida destroyed or damaged more than 100 homes in the town of Hurley in southwest Virginia — proof, officials said, that a hurricane can affect any part of the state.
Talmadge said Ida actually shifted the flood plain in Hurley. That, along with unseasonable tornadoes and increasingly torrential summer downpours, is evidence of changing weather patterns in Virginia and nationwide. Talmadge doesn’t give a name to it, but weather events like these are increasingly tied to atmospheric changes caused by greenhouse gas emissions.
VDEM works with dozens of state and federal agencies, nongovernmental entities and private businesses. Together, representatives from those groups make up the Virginia Emergency Support Team. The group also works with local governments and emergency managers to coordinate responses.