Gov. Bob McDonnell’s office has issued this update on the recovery efforts on the aftermath of the weekend storms that have been blamed for 10 deaths and hundreds of thousands of power outages:
RICHMOND – Governor Bob McDonnell has issued the following update this morning regarding Virginia’s ongoing response to the historic severe weather episode that struck the Commonwealth over the weekend.
As of 11:30 a.m., power companies are reporting that approximately 500,000 customers are without power statewide, down from a high of some 1.2 million customers. Power companies say these are historic levels of outages, typically seen only after hurricanes. It will take the rest of this week to fully restore power, especially in hard-hit southwestern and northern Virginia. People should avoid downed power lines and to report them to their utility provider. In addition, it is now confirmed that 10 people have died in Virginia as a result of the storms. Also, since June 20, another six heat-related deaths have occurred.
“This has been a difficult weekend through Virginia, as extremely dangerous storms and historic heat have impacted much of the Commonwealth. In the wake of Friday and Saturday’s powerful storms which knocked out power across a broad swath of our state, it is vital that all our citizens take every precaution to protect themselves from the high temperatures still felt across Virginia,” said Governor Bob McDonnell. “Please check on your neighbors, family members and friends to make sure they have a cool place to go if their power is out. At the state level, we are doing our very best to provide resources to help local governments cope with the effects of these historic storms. We also are closely coordinating with the power companies to get the power supply restored as quickly as possible. We will take every step necessary to get power restored and damage repaired as quickly as is possible. I continue to ask Virginians to work together and help one another as we recover from the largest non-hurricane related power outage in Virginia history.”
In response to the derecho storm and its aftermath, the Virginia Emergency Operations Center is processing requests from local governments and matching them with the appropriate state agencies for response.
Here is a summary of current state agency response efforts:
- The Virginia Department of Emergency Management is coordinating delivery of water to Charlottesville, and Albemarle, Alleghany, Bedford, Botetourt and Page counties. Generators have been delivered to Bath, Botetourt, Highland and Rockingham counties and the town of Vinton and city of Covington. Heavy equipment has been provided to Albemarle County and Charlottesville, and advanced life support ambulances from Halifax and Chesterfield counties have been provided to Alexandria.
- VDEM has set up an event blog to record agency response, track the opening of cooling centers and provide information to the public at www.virginiaderecho.tumblr.com
- The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is focusing on reopening roads. There are 20 primary roads (numbers 1-599) and 201 secondary roads (numbers 600 and above) that are closed due to downed trees, branches, tree limbs and debris. VDOT crews are coordinating with utility workers to remove downed trees from roads. About 100 traffic signals are out, particularly in northern Virginia. Drivers should treat all non-functioning traffic signals as four-way stops. Call 511 or visit www.511virginia.org for road conditions and report road issues to 1-800-FOR-ROAD.
- The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is providing timely public health messages about food safety, heat-related illness and safe debris removal.
- The Virginia National Guard has 138 personnel staged in Fredericksburg and 40 in Lexington who are ready to take on missions if assigned.
Local governments are actively responding to the storm’s aftermath:
- 36 localities have declared emergencies, and 27 local emergency operations centers are open to coordinate assistance to their residents.
- 11 local shelters are open, although this number changes with need.
- At least 35 localities have opened cooling centers to provide daytime relief from the heat. To find cooling shelters, people should listen to their local media, call their local emergency management officials or go to www.virginiaderecho.tumlr.com
Many volunteer groups are busy in heavily-impacted areas such as northern and central Virginia. For example:
- In Bath County, the American Red Cross and Virginia Baptists are providing meals, and Gleaning for the World has provided 500 gallons of water.
- In Lynchburg, Mercy Chefs are assisting with meals in a shelter.
- For Highland County, Operation Blessing provided a refrigerator truck.
- Local volunteer groups are assisting with some cooling centers.
Virginians should take precautions from the high heat:
- Keep cool in an air-conditioned area. Spending at least two hours per day in air conditioning significantly reduces the number of heat-related illnesses. Visit malls, local libraries or stay with friends or family who have air conditioning.
- Cold baths or showers can help cool you down. Also, drink plenty of cool, nonalcoholic fluids, 2-4 glasses each hour, regardless of your level of activity.
- During extreme temperatures, fans by themselves are not enough to prevent heat-related illnesses. When temperatures are in the upper 90s or above, fans may not prevent heat-related illnesses.
- Those with immediate need for shelter, food or water should check with local social services departments, count or city governments, or volunteer groups.
Of the 10 storm-related fatalities that have been confirmed in Virginia, two occurred in Albemarle County, two in Bedford County, one in the city of Chesapeake, three in Fairfax County, one in Montgomery County, one in the city of Roanoke.
Of the six heat-related fatalities that have been confirmed in Virginia, two occurred in central, two in northern and two in western Virginia.