Across Virginia

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ The National Weather Service has confirmed that the remnants of Hurricane Florence spawned a total of six tornadoes in Virginia earlier this week. Five of the tornadoes on Monday were spread across the Richmond metro area. A sixth tornado hit Mecklenburg County, near the North Carolina border, the same day. Media outlets report that teams from the National Weather Service in Wakefield, Virginia, surveyed damage from the storms Tuesday and confirmed the number at 6. The strongest tornado levelled a flooring company in Chesterfield, killing a man who worked there. That storm was categorized as an EF2 hurricane, packing winds of 120 miles per hour.

MANASSAS, Va. (AP) – A man is accused of rubbing his bare behind on produce at a grocery store in northern Virginia before putting the items back on display. News outlets report 27-year-old Michael Dwayne Johnson, of Manassas, is charged with indecent exposure and destruction of property. A Manassas police release says an employee on Saturday noticed Johnson grabbing produce, pulling down his pants and rubbing the produce on his behind before putting it back. It says the store had to destroy several pallets of produce because of Johnson’s actions. A police spokeswoman says the report lists fruit as the ruined produce. Authorities have not released a motive. It’s unclear if Johnson has a lawyer.

Photo: Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge

TUESDAY PM UPDATE:  The National Park Service has reopened much of the Blue Ridge Parkway, including the portion between US 220 in Clearbrook to Peaks of Otter. As of late Tuesday afternoon, the parkway remained closed between Clearbrook and Adney Gap.

PREVIOUS: The entire Blue Ridge Parkway closed in anticipation of the arrival of Hurricane Florence. WFIR’s Denise Allen Membreno reports on when it will reopen.

09-18 Parkway wrap 1-WEB

Click here for the latest parkway information.

The person who directs FEMA in the mid-Atlantic region says staffers were deployed across Virginia in case the call came anywhere for federal assistance. The agency also warehouses all sorts of disaster relief supplies in a warehouse in Martinsburg West Virginia for deployment wherever needed on short notice. WFIR’s Evan Jones has more:

09-18 FEMA-Virginia Wrap1-WEB

LOCAL UPDATE: The latest National Weather Service forecast for the Dan River is not nearly as dire as first predicted. The Dan is still expected to crest at 8 1/2 feet above flood stage Tuesday afternoon, just touching the level considered “major”. But that is well below initial forecasts that suggested the river would approach record flood levels. The Roanoke River appears to be near its expected high point, and it is forecast to recede overnight and into tomorrow. The river is about a foot and a half above flood stage, causing flooding to parts of the greenway but at last report, not impacting any homes or businesses. The National Weather Service has dramatically lowered its forecast for the New River in Radford. The latest projection calls for it to reach its high point early tomorrow about a half foot above flood stage.

Here is the latest regional radar from WDBJ7:

National Update

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — The river seethed a quarter-mile away, bulging from its banks, so the patrol cars circled the neighborhood three times.

“Get out now,” a voice boomed from a bullhorn. “This is an emergency.”

Waheeda Reese and her 14-year-old daughter, Anissa, were inside watching news reports about drowned towns all over the state and rain that hadn’t yet stopped.

“All that water is going to come this way,” Anissa said, trying to convince her mother it was time to leave. The city had taped a mandatory evacuation notice to their front door, and a friend in the fire department had called to warn: “I don’t want to have to come pick you up in a boat.”

They still had 22 hours until a deadline to go, and Waheeda wanted to stay. She pointed out the window and said, wishfully, “Look, I think the rain’s letting up.”

As the days drag on, Hurricane Florence has taken this deceptive turn: The violent winds that rattled shingles off houses and tore down trees have subsided, and the pounding rain has eased, lulling many in the storm’s path into believing they’ve already weathered the worst of it — even as rivers quietly churn and continue to rise.

More than 7,000 people were ordered to evacuate by Sunday afternoon. But many, weary of a storm that’s lingered on and on, did their own rough calculus of the odds and decided to stay.

As the Cape Fear River swelled, rescue teams trudged along its banks, pleading with people to get out of its way. Police officers went door to door. The mayor of Fayetteville presented the problem in the starkest of terms: Evacuate or notify your legal next of kin.

Military trucks in rural corners of the county barreled down dirt roads quickly becoming mud pits. “Please go,” soldiers asked stubborn residents along the massive river that curls downstream through small towns, farms and rural mobile home parks and into the city of Fayetteville, where the Reeses live in a subdivision that butts up against the bank.

Anissa’s friend down the street was evacuating with his family and knocked on her door, begging her and her mother to come. The Reeses had packed their things just in case, tucking important documents in a water-tight bag. They stacked chairs on top of tables and moved all the family photos upstairs. Then they waited to see what would happen.

A few miles away, a high-water rescue team comprising two dozen soldiers from Fort Bragg rested on cots in an arena — preparing for water to surge into neighborhoods and send residents climbing out windows and onto rooftops, a familiar scene since Florence made landfall Friday morning.

“I want to make sure those citizens realize the decisions they’re making,” said Lt. John Savage, who commands the team that knocked on doors to talk with those staying behind. “We have thorough conversations with them to let them know the gravity of the situation they’re in.”

Over the weekend, a military truck rolled down the mucky lane to Kevin Blades’ house 20 miles (32 kilometers) upstream from Fayetteville, near where the Cape Fear and Little rivers meet. Savage said there is particular concern about this area. Six horses were drinking from floodwater already pooling on the front lawn. Power had been out for days. The dirt road to the house was so soggy, the truck got stuck in the mud and Blades and a neighbor had to tow it out.

Blades informed the soldiers he planned to stay anyway and not to worry because he had an escape plan in mind. “If I have to,” he said, “I’ll ride the horses out of here.”

The soldiers left, the Blades played cards, the rain poured on, and the river rose.



Check back for running updates

MONDAY: The Roanoke River appears to be near its expected high point, and it is forecast to recede overnight and into tomorrow. The river is about a foot and a half above flood stage, causing flooding to parts of the greenway but at last report, not impacting any homes or businesses.

The Red Cross plans to close the Roanoke emergency shelter at the Berglund Center at noon Tuesday. 16 people were there at last report, and both the Red Cross and Roanoke Rescue Mission are prepared to offer services if needed.

The Roanoke Roanoke River appears to be near its expected high point, and it is forecast to recede overnight and into tomorrow. The river reached about a foot and a half above flood stage, causing flooding to parts of the greenway but at last report, not impacting any homes or businesses.

The National Weather Service has dramatically lowered its forecast for the New River in Radford. The latest projection calls for it to reach its high point early tomorrow about a half foot above flood stage. Earlier projections had called for the possibility of major flooding there.

Roanoke City officials continue to monitor the weather forecast and river levels. Officials say the City Fire Department still has two swift waster rescue teams on standby.  They are telling residents to check the city’s website and social media for the most up to date information.

SUNDAY EVENING: The National Weather Service in Blacksburg has issued a Flash Flood Warning for  Roanoke City, Roanoke County, Salem, Franklin County, northeastern Floyd County, Danville, Pittsylvania County, Martinsville, Henry County, and eastern Patrick County until 8:30 am Monday. A second Flash Flood Warning covers Montgomery County, Floyd County, Pulaski County and Radford until 9:30 am Monday.

SUNDAY AFTERNOON: The National Weather Service has issued a River Flood Warning for the Roanoke River at Roanoke until Tuesday afternoon. The weather service predicts minor flooding as the river rises close to one-and-a-half feed above flood stage Monday afternoon before receding below flood stage by early Tuesday morning. The only specifically-mentioned impact in the warning is for flooding along the Roanoke River Greenway.

From the National Weather Service: THE NWS in Blacksburg Va has issued a Flood Warning for the following rivers in Virginia: Roanoke River At Roanoke affecting Roanoke County, City of Roanoke and City of Salem. Rainfall from now Tropical Depression Florence both observed and forecast over the next 24 to 36 hours, will cause minor flooding along the Roanoke River mainly tomorrow and tomorrow night. This forecast is based heavily on additional forecast rainfall of 2 to 4 inches across the basin overnight and into tomorrow. If the rainfall exceeds this amount stages could be still higher or would be lower if the rain fails to reach expectations.

At 04PM Sunday the stage was 3.1 feet.  Flood Stage is 10.0 feet.  Minor flooding is forecast.

Forecast: Rise above flood stage by tomorrow afternoon and continue to rise to near 11.4 feet by tomorrow evening. The river will fall below flood stage by early Tuesday morning.
Impact: At 10.0 feet, Roanoke River Greenway path begins to flood along right bank.

SUNDAY MORNING: Forecasters expect the Roanoke River to reach its high point Monday evening right around the start of flood stage. It means that for now, only minor flooding is expected in the Roanoke Valley.

The Red Cross has opened a shelter at the Berglund Center. Pets are welcome as well, with the exception of exotic pets, wildlife or aggressive dogs. You should bring bedding, clothing, medications, and for children, a favorite comfort item like a stuffed animal.

SATURDAY LATE AFTERNOON: Roanoke County has taken the precautionary step of declaring a state of emergency. That enables the county to request state and local resources should they become needed.

SATURDAY MIDDAY: The latest river forecast shows the Roanoke river is expected to start rising above flood stage some time Monday morning and briefly reach major flood stage in the valley Monday night before quickly receding. The forecast models suggest the river will crest seven feet below its record high levels.

SATURDAY AM: As of mid-morning, Appalachian Power had reported up to 2,600 customers are without power in its Virginia service area, most of those concentrated in Floyd, Bedford and Franklin Counties. The utility says it has outside crews ready to assist its own in coming days as the number of outages is expected to greatly increase.

If you are on the road today, be prepared for periods of heavy rains and gusty winds. VDOT has issued a high wind advisory for I-77 between the North Carolina line up the mountain to Fancy Gap.

The first cancellations are starting to appear on the board at Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport. If you have flight plans today, make sure to check with your airline.

The Town of Blacksburg is making sand bags available today until four for town residents as long as supplies last. You can pick them up at the Blacksburg Rec Center. The maximum per person is six.

FRIDAY PM: Roanoke College has cancelled all classes and events for Monday over potential flash flooding concerns. The college says essential services like dining and health will continue to be provided.

Roanoke County is urging residents to sign up for its “RoCo Alerts” citizen alert and warning system via the county’s website, where there is also a “RoCo Alert” page with up to date emergency information. If you lose power but the county libraries still have it they will make power strips available where people can charge their phones and digital devices.

Roanoke County Public Libraries will be making available additional power strips and we invite people to bring their digital devices and chargers to any of our locations. In the event of a power outage, the libraries will close. No fines will be assessed on any materials due to the library over the weekend.”

Governor Northam lifted the mandatory evacuation order for low-lying areas of coastal Virginia. It came after the National Weather Service cancelled its tropical storm warning for coastal areas. Emergency Management officials are turning their focus to possible flooding in coming days in southwest Virginia.

The entire Blue Ridge Parkway is closing Friday at 8:00 pm in anticipation of Hurricane Florence’s arrival. One of the few facilities that will remain open along the parkway is Peaks of Otter Lodge, but that will be accessible only by way on state route 43, not the parkway itself. The parkway closure will continue until further notice.

The National Weather Service has issued a Flash Flood Watch for much of Southside and southwest Virginia that covers three days — starting tomorrow morning and running through Monday evening. The watch area includes Roanoke, Franklin and Montgomery Counties. The weather service says four to eight inches of rain are likely in coming days, and locally higher amounts of 10 inches are possible along the Blue Ridge. The weather service says moderate to perhaps major flooding is possible along rivers that include the New and Roanoke.


Emergency management officials say while Virginia appears all but certain to avoid the worst of Florence, the state is still prepared to respond to any significant flooding that is still possible in southwest regions into early next week. Some response resources are already in place in the southwest, and more can be brought in if needed.  WFIR’s Evan Jones has the story.

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It looks increasing likely that Hurricane Florence will impact our part of Virginia with heavy rains — creating the potential for serious, widespread flooding. Emergency officials are saying it has the potential to be “catastrophic”, and just because we are well inland does not mean we are out of trouble. WFIR’s Evan Jones has more:

09-11 Flood Threat Wrap1-WEB

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Virginia’s attorney general is asking federal judges to redraw 11 state House districts found to be unconstitutionally gerrymandered and not wait for the General Assembly to do the job. Attorney General Mark Herring filed his request Monday for the court to begin the process of drawing new maps. Herring, a Democrat, said Virginia Republicans “have made clear” they don’t plan to create a new map by an Oct. 30 court-ordered deadline. The court ruled in June that lawmakers illegally packed black voters into the 11 districts and ordered a new map drawn. Republicans are appealing that ruling and have said they are open to working with Democrats on a remedial plan. A federal court had to redraw Virginia’s congressional map two years ago after lawmakers failed to do so.

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